The Tennessee Volunteers will have a big presence in the 2021 NBA Draft, following a top-five recruiting class in the 2020 cycle. Rick Barnes was able to pull a couple of one-and-dones, moving the Tennessee program into new territory.
Those two former five-star prospects are now projected first round picks. Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer shouldn’t have to wait too long on draft night, and earlier this week they both received their formal invitation to participate in the NBA Combine.
Joining them at the combine will be four-year player Yves Pons, who is the latest Rick Barnes success story. The versatile forward out of France came a long way in Knoxville, growing from a raw, bouncy athlete to a premier college defender. The former SEC Defensive Player of the Year will have a chance to show off his elite athletic ability at the combine — a place he should really shine. Expect big vertical numbers from Pons, who blocked 2.4 shots per game during the 2019-20 season.
The NBA’s view on Pons will be fascinating. He’s a guy that’s going to have all of the athleticism, but is kind of stuck in between a true forward and a wing. His inconsistent offense and shooting won’t help him, considering he’s been developing at Tennessee for four seasons now.
As for Keon Johnson, he’s everything that the NBA loves. All the athletic ability in the world — raw or not — and plenty of time to develop after just one season in college. Jaden Springer doesn’t quite have the upside that Johnson offers, but perhaps brings a little more polish to the table. After being projected somewhere in the middle of the first round, Springer is now being shown as a later first round pick, fitting as a potential point guard in waiting.
The NBA Combine will take place from June 21-27. The lottery to determine the final draft order will happen on Tuesday, June 22nd, ahead of the draft day date of July 29th.