Draft day was bittersweet for Tennessee basketball fans. On one hand, seeing three players get drafted from Tennessee’s Sweet 16 squad is a reason to celebrate. It validates what many were saying about the talent Rick Barnes assembled and developed, and how the perception of Tennessee basketball was changing.
On the other hand, having three of your best players leave also means that the team will look radically different in the 2019 season. Multiple players will need to step up and reach the potential they’ve flashed in the previous years.
If that happens, we will likely see more NBA draft selections, which should never be viewed as a bad thing. What does that mean for next year’s team and the players who have a chance at hearing the name called? Turns out that the chances of multiple Tennessee players getting selected is a good bit lower this time around. We examine why that is.
It turns out that the only two seniors on the team are also the most likely to get drafted out of anyone in the class besides a signee.
Lamonte Turner does have some late first round potential. It will require him to continue progressing at his current rate, but it is certainly possible. The senior guard can fill a 3-and-D role somewhat nicely at the NBA level, though he will need to show more of that potential in 2019-2020.
Perhaps the biggest question with Turner is if he can regain the 3-point spark that he provided the team in 2018-2019. After a shoulder surgery in the offseason, Turner’s averages dipped dramatically (39 percent to 32 percent), and he was an erratic scorer ever since. He had yet another shoulder surgery back in April. Is it going to set him back even more? If it does, then he could drop off NBA radars altogether, since injury concerns are one of the most volatile issues a player can sustain.
Jordan Bowden strikes me as a guy you take a late second round flyer on. Mainly in the hopes that he continues the progression he has undergone in college. When Bowden first arrived on the scene, he was still getting adjusted to the pace of the college game and learning his own offensive skill set. Entering his senior year, Bowden has become one of the best scorers on the team, and though he can be inconsistent at times, he is still very talented and worth playing near starter minutes.
This is Bowden’s money year. Everything has culminated to Bowden being arguably the top scorer for a team that loses a lot of production. Should he assume the role, he will have plenty of tape to show off for NBA scouts attempting to figure out where he fits at the next level.
Possible Early Departures
Technically, every other player on the roster who isn’t a senior could go under this category. But as it stands, there is essentially no one besides one player who has a decent shot at getting drafted at this point in time. That will likely change as the season goes on. For now, we cannot try to guess which players will make huge leaps in their development, so we will simply go off the rumor mill. That same rumor mill has the jewel of the 2019 recruiting class being a potential first round pick.
Josiah-Jordan James was a 5-star combo guard when he signed with the Vols, and chances are he will grab a starting spot before the season begins. The departure of Grant Williams and Jordan Bone means the backcourt is itching for a well-rounded player to assist Lamonte Turner in leading Tennessee with a radically different makeup.
James projects as a late first round pick before he’s even played a game of college ball. James is not a dynamite scorer, but he is capable of holding his own attacking the basket, while also converting mid-range shots. He will likely need to show 3-point capabilities if he wants to emerge higher in draft discussions.
Where his biggest strengths lay are his defensive potential and his overall basketball IQ. To the former, James’ 6-6 and 200 pound frame means that he can guard virtually any wing player that goes up against him. That includes guards that might otherwise be too shifty or quick for larger defenders. He’s technically sound and will succeed right off the bat in this role.
James also has a very mature approach to the point guard position and is always looking to create offense—even if he isn’t the primary focal point. He’s an adept passer who will only get better with more experience at the next level.