The NBA Draft has (finally) come and gone. After losing Grant Williams, Jordan Bone, Kyle Alexander and Admiral Schofield in the previous year, Tennessee went through an understandable down year last season. Because of that, the Volunteers were shut out of the 2020 draft. However, that’s extremely likely to change next year.
Rick Barnes welcomes two five-star guard prospects to the program this season, adding them to the already experienced core of Yves Pons and John Fulkerson. It should be an exciting year in Knoxville — one that could finish with Tennessee sending a few players on to the league.
In the first 2021 mock draft from SBNation’s own Ricky O’Donnell, Tennessee had two players land inside of the top 15. Jaden Springer landed at No. 6, while Keon Johnson landed at No. 13.
Here’s O’Donnell on both.
6. Jaden Springer, G, Tennessee
Springer is going to be part of an upstart Tennessee squad that should have NBA scouts monitoring what’s happening in Knoxville all season long. The 6’5 guard had a terrific prep career at IMG Prep, where he helped lead the team to a mythical national championship as a junior. Springer is a relentless player on both ends, combining aggressive drives to the rim with intimidating one-on-one defense. His strength and agility combined with a winning mentality should make him a productive college player from day one.
13. Keon Johnson, F, Tennessee
Johnson feels like one of the most underrated players in the incoming freshman class after being ranked No. 23 in the RSCI. The 6’5 wing is a nuclear athlete who is able to impact the game without needing the ball in his hands. Read Ross Homan on Johnson’s appeal.
Outside of Johnson and Springer, we can’t forget about Yves Pons when it comes to NBA prospects. Pons chose to come back to Tennessee for his senior season after a breakout junior season. He’s always had the tools, but last season we finally saw him put it all together. There’s certainly a place for Pons in today’s NBA — an elite athlete who can guard nearly any spot on the floor. The question comes on the offensive side, which is where Pons is looking to find some consistency this year.
You probably shouldn’t count out John Fulkerson, either. His transformation at Tennessee has been nothing short of incredible, and his size and ability to score may at least land him at shot at the next level.
Josiah-Jordan James is another name that will likely get his shot in the league, maybe a little further down the road.
This Tennessee roster is completely loaded and ready to make a run once again. Rick Barnes has built this program from the ground up, turning Knoxville into a destination for top prospects across the country. That will likely be on display this season, and then again on draft night in 2021.