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NBA Draft Week: Could Dalton Knecht Become Tennessee’s Highest All-Time Pick?

Dalton Knecht
Tennessee guard Dalton Knecht. Photo via Tennessee Athletics.

Reigning SEC Player of the Year Dalton Knecht is just a few days away from hearing his name called during the 2024 NBA Draft.

The draft will take place in New York this week with the first round in the Barclays Center on Wednesday night and the second round from ESPN’s Seaport District Studios from Manhatten on Thursday night.

With the expectations that former Tennessee guard Dalton Knecht will be a lottery pick early in the first round, Vol fans will want to be locked into ESPN on Wednesday night.

Knecht proved himself to be an elite NBA prospect overall but is widely considered one of the best players from the collegiate tree entering the league. During his lone season at Tennessee, Knecht averaged 21.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.8 assists on 45.8 percent shooting while leading the Vols to an Elite Eight appearance.

Knecht proved his worth in SEC games while helping the Vols claim an SEC regular season championship, racking up six games with 35 or more points last season.

ESPN’s Jeremy Woo and Jonathan Givony have had Knecht projected as a Top 10 pick since the NBA Combine but have the former Vol jumping up in their draft-week mock draft on Monday.

The duo has Knecht projected to be selected sixth overall by the Charlotte Hornets as the third-highest college player taken behind Kentucky’s Reed Sheppard at No. 3 and UConn’s Stephon Castle at No. 4 overall.

“Knecht’s draft range appears increasingly small, with teams in the range of Nos. 4 to 9 all expressing significant interest, except for Detroit at No. 5,” Givony wrote for ESPN. “Charlotte has worked out Knecht, and his fit alongside LaMelo Ball and Brandon Miller appears to be strong with the perimeter shooting and all-around scoring prowess Knecht offers. If Knecht isn’t picked at No. 6, it might be because a player such as Sheppard or Castle (both of whom Charlotte has worked out) becomes available.”

Just stopping there for a quick second… Let’s say Knecht is drafted at No. 6 overall this Wednesday night. Knecht would become Tennessee’s second-highest all-time draft pick at that position, chasing Tom Boerwinkle’s leading No. 4 overall selection in the 1968 NBA Draft. Tennessee’s Bernard King is the current second-highest in program history with the No. 7 selection in the 1977 NBA Draft.

While it seems very unlikely that Knecht goes in the top four picks, the latest mock draft shows that the second spot on Tennessee’s list could be up for grabs this Wednesday night.

Tennessee Basketball All-Time First-Round Draft Picks

  • Tom Boerwinkle, No. 4 – 1968
  • Bernard King, No. 7 – 1977
  • Dale Ellis, No. 9 – 1983
  • Allan Houston, No. 11 – 1993
  • Ernie Grunfeld, No. 11 – 1977
  • Marcus Haislip, No. 13 – 2002
  • Reggie Johnson, No. 15 – 1980
  • Tobias Harris, No. 19 – 2011
  • Keon Johnson, No. 21 – 2021
  • Grant Williams, No. 22 – 2019
  • Ed Gray, No. 22 – 1997
  • Jaden Springer, No. 28 – 2021
More From RTI: Dalton Knecht Posts Farewell To Tennessee Basketball

Givony’s latest draft intel on Knecht also reveals that Portland and San Antonio at No. 7 and No. 8 respectively seem to be a stopping point with the amount of interest the Trail Blazers and the Spurs have expressed.

On June 6, Knecht worked out for the Trail Blazers coaching staff and scouts on the road to the NBA Draft. Knecht expressed his gratitude towards the Blazers for bringing him in and spoke about his admiration for head coach Chauncey Billups, a native of Denver. The June 6 workout with the Blazers was Knecht’s second with the team but the first that involved a video on social media.

San Antonio has also been a team with reported interest in the Tennessee guard as the Spurs look to capitalize on two picks in the Top 8 picks of the draft. Knecht has been widely mocked to the Spurs as an older, mature player whose sharp perimeter shooting can work hand-in-hand with sophomore superstar Victor Wembenyama.

And, lastly, the in-state Memphis Grizzlies seem to be another stopping point for Knecht if he does fall to the back end of the Top 10. Memphis is in a very unique position with that Top 10 pick, mostly because they return a strong core of players but are in the position they’re in because of injuries and a suspension derailing the 2023-2024 season. Memphis can afford to take an older player like Knecht because of the starting talent they already have.

Knecht also works well with Memphis on paper because of his recent experience joining an already put-together team. The Northern Colorado guard transferred to a Tennessee roster that already boasted strong players such as Josiah-Jordan James, Santiago Vescovi, Zakai Zeigler, and Jahmai Mashack, but ended up raising his game and the game of his teammates with his seamless integration on the court.

All of these projections come on the heels of a strong showing at the NBA Combine in May. Knecht, measured at 6-foot-5.25 and 212.2 pounds, was recorded with a 6-foot-9 wingspan and an 8-foot-7.5 standing reach. The former Tennessee wing tallied the third-highest vertical jump among players at 39.0 inches.

All in all, there seems to be high certainty that Dalton Knecht will be one of the first ten names called at the NBA Draft Combine. And suppose you can look past his age or even see it as a benefit in the maturity department. In that case, Knecht is a sharpshooting, playmaking wing with a bit more defensive prowess than much of the national media will give credit for.

Stay tuned to Rocky Top Insider for more on Dalton Knecht leading to the NBA Draft this Wednesday in New York.

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