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2019 NBA Draft Profile: Jordan Bone offers upside that’s impossible to ignore

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Will the arrow continue to point upwards for Bone?

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Kentucky vs Tennessee Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Bone has always had intriguing potential. In fact, that potential is what got Bone to Knoxville. Former Tennessee assistant coach Rob Lanier accidentally found Bone while scouting another prospect. Bone’s speed and raw athletic ability caught Lanier’s eye. Four years later, Bone is hoping to hear his name called in Thursday’s NBA Draft.

Some people will tell you that Bone is Tennessee’s best NBA Draft prospect — most will agree that he has the most upside of the group. Armed with a 6-3, 180 pound frame and some elite athleticism, Bone has a lot of attributes that you can’t teach. With more polish, Bone could become the best Volunteers of this group at the NBA level.

As a recruit

Bone fits directly into the three-star narrative at Tennessee. Head coach Rick Barnes inherited an unspectacular roster and added a few average looking prospects on paper and managed to take that core to the AP No. 1 ranking. Bone was the 171st ranked player in the country, choosing Tennessee over offers from Ole Miss, Memphis, Vanderbilt and VCU.

Tennessee Career

Barnes had an immediate need at the point guard position after the departure of Kevin Punter. Bone stepped into some of those minutes, splitting time with Lamonte Turner and Shembari Phillips.

It didn’t go well. The Vols struggled to a 16-16 record that season as this new group tried to find their footing. Bone took on 20 minutes per game, averaging seven points and nearly three assists per contest.

Even on a much more competitive team in 2017-18, Bone struggled to find any consistency or rhythm. His numbers barely improved as he became buried in an offense that featured Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield. Rick Barnes would publicly beg Bone to be more aggressive before and after games. Barnes wanted Bone to utilize his all-world speed and get to the rim, which would give Tennessee a totally new dimension offensively. To everyone’s frustration, that just didn’t happen in his first two seasons.

Last season, the light came on for Jordan Bone. Finally, the junior guard was playing like a true point guard. He took ownership of the offense and let everything run through him. Bone made the leap from 7.5 points and 3.5 assists per game to 13 points and 5.8 assists per game. Barnes put a lot more responsibility on his plate with a thinner bench behind him, but Bone rose to the occasion.

Bone’s field goal percentage rose from 39 percent to 46 percent, mostly due to his added aggression in getting to the basket. He set the pace for Tennessee bringing the ball up the court, quickly putting pressure on the defense. That improvement earned him a spot on the All-SEC second team last season.

Positives

  • Electric athleticism. Might have been the quickest player in college basketball last season.
  • Posted the best time in the lane agility and shuttle drills at the Combine.
  • Plenty of ability to create and get to the rim.
  • Showed outstanding court vision last season, making a huge leap from his sophomore year.
  • Potential, Potential, Potential.

Negatives

  • Too streaky as a shooter. 35 percent from three-point range as a junior.
  • Only one season of top notch production at Tennessee.
  • Aggression levels can be inconsistent. At his best with his foot on the gas.
  • Average defender.

NBA Outlook

I’m a firm believer that Bone’s best basketball is ahead of him. The jump he made from his sophomore year to his junior year was nothing short of spectacular — and quite honestly pretty rare. Rick Barnes is notoriously tough on his point guards. At first it seemed like Bone wasn’t responding to his coaching, but something changed last offseason.

Bone’s truly elite athleticism makes him worth a second round pick. His added court vision and control of the offense that he demonstrated last season offer a glimpse of the total package that he could put together at the next level. His inconsistencies were frustrating in his early seasons because you saw the potential there. As a junior, those frustrations vanished.

Tennessee transformed from a team that ran through its star power forward, to a team that operated through its aggressive point guard. If he can get his outside shot more consistent and continue to build off of the steps he took as a junior, Jordan Bone has a shot to be an impact player at the next level.