Tennessee is in the middle of a truly magical basketball season, sitting at 19-1 and on top of the college basketball world. Nothing should take away from that, but plenty of Tennessee fans are starting to peek ahead to the looming decision of star player Grant Williams, who could opt to head to the NBA Draft after this season.
Williams wasn’t really thought of as a legitimate NBA first round pick until this year. The 6-7 listing on Tennessee’s athletics site is probably generous, which obviously limits Grant’s upside at the next level. But Williams keeps producing huge numbers — and you keep seeing mock drafts adding him late in the first round.
“Positionless basketball” is the buzz phrase in the current landscape of the NBA, which likely favors a guy like Williams. Still, his body leaves him with the size of a wing player, but he has the skillset of a post player. That makes for a fascinating evaluation for NBA scouts.
After the South Carolina game, Williams commented on the possibility of leaving Tennessee early.
“As a kid, you always dream of [the NBA], but for me it’s always been about the team,” Williams said. “I want to win. I told Coach Barnes that I wanted to hang banners. That’s my goal, and that’s my sole focus. I don’t need to worry about that other stuff. That stuff will take care of itself.
“I mean, it’s never gonna go anywhere. It’s not like the NBA will destroy itself in the next year or two years or three years, whatever.”
Asked if that meant returning to Tennessee for a fourth season was possible, Williams quickly nodded his head.
“Oh, yeah, there’s definitely a chance,” he said. (Quotes via 247 Sports)
Another layer to this? Grant is graduating after three years in school, something that shouldn’t surprise anyone if you’ve followed his career. That would allow him to walk early to the NBA with his degree in hand.
Tennessee has a real shot to hang a couple of banners this spring. However, that chance won’t just disappear next year. Admiral Schofield and Kyle Alexander will move on after this season, both of whom will have their own chances in the NBA.
Those are massive losses, sure, but the Vols will likely return Jordan Bone, Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden. Adding Williams back into that mix, along with five-star combo guard Josiah James would put Tennessee right back at the top of the SEC conversation once again.
At the very least, Grant would be wise to declare without hiring an agent, just as Schofield did last season. That would allow him to speak and workout for teams while gathering information.
While you should absolutely soak in these next two months of Tennessee basketball, I won’t blame anyone for looking ahead. As soon as this ride ends, all eyes will be focused on the decision of Grant.