The new era of Tennessee basketball that started in 2015 has produced a new era of NBA Volunteers as well. It’s a young man’s league, and that means Tennessee’s recent success has made their players an attractive option for NBA teams.
In the past six years, Tennessee has had six players selected in the NBA draft. Among these selections are some of the best Tennessee basketball players of all time, including guys like Admiral Schofield, Grant Williams, and others.
Whether you are a diehard NBA fan (or only watch the Finals) you still might want to know how Tennessee’s recent selections have been faring. With 30 teams in the league, it can be a bit difficult. We’ve done the hard work for you and compiled a list of the recent draftees and how they have been doing in the league.
Obviously we do not watch every game the NBA has to offer. In fact, almost all the games I watch are related to the Memphis Grizzlies. But with the help of research and some dedicated fan sites, we’ve been able to get a good gauge of where these players stand within their respective organizations.
PF Grant Williams
The Grant Williams saga is something that every NBA fan can appreciate, and not just Tennessee basketball fans.
Here’s the truth: For his first couple of seasons in Boston, it didn’t really look like Grant Williams was going to work out. The Celtics had selected him with the 22nd pick in the 2019 draft and hoped that he could translate some of his size and leadership into an NBA role.
But at the beginning, he instead looked like a tweener, who had no real position in the league.
Williams was often the target of Celtics fan ire. He would routinely get lost on the court and did not contribute much on the offensive end. But the Celtics stuck with him and kept up the belief that he would develop. He did just that.
The 2022 season is where Grant Williams really came into his own. Williams played in 77 games and got the start in 21 of them, while averaging over 24 minutes per contest. Not only did Williams finally find his footing as an NBA defender, but he became a lethal 3-point threat. The former isn’t too surprising. He showed a lot of that ability at Tennessee, and it was just a matter of getting to know the team’s system and adjusting to the speed of the NBA. Williams is a stocky player who doesn’t get backed down, and has a knack for playing bigger than his height.
But his offensive progression is somewhat surprising. Williams was not a prolific 3-point shooter in college, and he finished his Tennessee career with a sub-30 percent mark. Williams’ first professional season saw him only shoot 25 percent as well. In 2021 and 2022 however, he made massive strides, with 2022 being his most efficient season yet. Williams shot 41% from 3-point range on over 250 attempts.
Williams will probably never be an All-NBA selection. But he has a clear role in Boston, who came just short of an NBA championship this year. Could he possibly get even better? Well, he’s already improved a ton, so it’s not out of the question. Right now it’s just a matter of if he can keep up the positive work.
But without a doubt, Grant Williams has arrived in the NBA and is there to stay.
Climbing Up The Ladder
SG Keon Johnson
Johnson started his career with the Los Angeles Clippers after they selected him 21st overall in the 2021 NBA draft. He played one season with them and split time with their G-League affiliate Agua Caliente, before being traded to the Portland Trail Blazers in February of this year.
We got a much better look at Johnson in Portland. The results were...about what you would expect for a very raw prospect with a ton of athleticism. Johnson started in 12 games and played in 22 while averaging over 25 minutes per contest. In his minutes, he contributed 9.7 points per game and 2.9 assists per game on below average shooting (just 45% true shooting, for reference).
Johnson is still figuring out how to use his talents at an NBA level. Pretty much everyone agrees that he is an athletic freak with a crazy high ceiling on both ends of the ball. What has to happen is a general refinement of his game, where he’s not just relying on that bounce and explosion to get results. His shooting numbers were poor and cannot be maintained if he wants to stick around at the next level. But unlike some of his fellow VFL alums fighting for roster spots, Johnson has a clear position in the league and more tools in the toolbox. It’s a matter of how he develops, rather than if he even belongs in the NBA at all.
Finding Their Footing
SG Jaden Springer
The first thing to remember about Springer is that he was just 18 years old when he got drafted 27th overall by the Philadelphia Sixers last year. Very few people expected him to contribute much in his rookie season. Springer was a development pick, and the Sixers weren’t in dire need of a star.
So Springer spent most of his rookie season in the G-League affiliate Delaware Blue Coats. While there, he played in 19 games and averaged almost 27 minutes per game. He contributed 14.9 points per game, 4.7 rebounds per game, and 2.8 assists per game. By all accounts, Springer made progress and shined at the G-League level. The only big concern is his 3-point shooting, where he averaged a paltry 24.1 percent. While that is not a good mark, it’s also never been his calling card.
The Sixers affiliated media seem to be in agreement that Springer will have a role for the team next season. Those inside the organization believe Springer has continued to progress and is getting close to competing for playing time on the main team.
PF Yves Pons
Fan favorite Yves Pons has had an up-and-down journey so far. Pons was with the Memphis Grizzlies organization this past season, where he battled with injuries and missed 20 games due to ankle and thigh issues. The Grizzlies weren’t overly impressed with his results, and thus Pons has now signed a Summer League contract with the Brooklyn Nets.
The good news is that Pons is still the same rangy defender we remember him as. But the offense is where Pons seems to have a hard time breaking through his ceiling. Pons simply doesn’t look like he has much of an arsenal beyond catch-and-shoot opportunities. That’s not going to cut it in the NBA.
The 2022 playoffs have especially magnified the importance of having some sort of offensive skill. Even if it’s just one particular strength, having something like that means teams have to account for you on the floor. Certain series this past postseason have seen teams essentially ignore players that don’t threaten on the offensive side of the ball. It makes it them much easier to defend.
All this to say: Pons won’t be seeing NBA action if he can’t find some sort of offensive juice. He might be able to sneak his way onto the bench in a certain rotation. But that’s about it.
That’s not a bad reality. Pons is clearly good enough to stay in the G-League, which is something that you’ll see a lot of the players on this list struggle with.
PF Admiral Schofield
Compare what we write about Schofield to what we write about Grant Williams. You will notice two things: The importance of going to the right organization, and the importance of having a “role”.
We’ll shortly summarize Schofield’s career moves. He was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers with the 42nd overall pick but immediately traded to the Washington Wizards as part of a draft day agreement. He split time with the Wizards and their G-League affiliate Capital City Go-Go, ultimately appearing in 33 NBA games (albeit not getting many minutes at all). He was then traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, but waived before ever playing a game. Schofield was then selected by the Greensboro Swarm in the January 2021 G-League draft. He averaged decent enough numbers, and was eventually picked up by the Orlando Magic’s G-League affiliate, the Lakeland Magic. Orlando then signed him to a two-way contract in December 2021. Schofield appeared in 38 games for the Magic, averaging 3.8 points per game and 2.3 rebounds per game on just 12.3 minutes per game.
Okay, that was not short. But you see why Schofield hasn’t been able to settle down anywhere.
If Schofield had performed well enough, he probably would’ve stuck somewhere. But from reading various media, it seems that Schofield does not have a true position in the league. He isn’t big enough to play the frontcourt, so instead he just comes off as a slow backcourt player without the necessary handles/shooting ability. Refer back to the Grant Williams blurb above—if Schofield had been able to hone in on something like 3-point shooting, or rebounding, or something similar, he may get more opportunities. But that has not happened.
Schofield is with Orlando as of this writing, and he may still have a spot next season. It’s not guaranteed however. Teams have to utilize their roster spots to the best of their ability, and the Magic as a rebuilding team especially so. Schofield may find himself back on the market once again.
Still In The League
PF Tobias Harris
Harris‘s career has been pretty commendable, for what was expected of him. Harris has played for five different teams in an 11 year span, and his most recent is the 76ers. He has been able to stick around thanks to his scoring ability. He hasn’t averaged below 17 points per game since 2016. He does have some deficiencies in his game (hence why he doesn’t stick around very long) but he is a fairly decent add to any roster.
SG Josh Richardson
Richardson‘s days as a starting guard in the NBA seem to be nearing their end. He may get some more playing time with a tanking San Antonio Spurs team, but his name has been thrown around in a lot of trade scenarios as well. He’s still a quality 3-and-D veteran option for a team looking to fill out their roster. I wouldn’t expect a career renaissance from him, but he’s still set for the next few years at least.
Out Of The League/Never In The League/Trying To Be In The League
PG Lamonte Turner
Signed his first professional contract with the Arka Gdynia of the Polish Basketball League in 2021. As of last roster check, he does not appear to still be on the team. He does run a training academy in Knoxville, according to his Twitter.
SG Jordan Bowden
Went undrafted but later signed with the Brooklyn Nets G-League affiliate, the Long Island Nets. He averaged 23 minutes last season.
SG Jordan Bone
Drafted by the Detroit Pistons in the second round of the 2019 draft. Has had a myriad of stops since then, including the Orlando Magic, the Delaware Blue Coats, a Turkish basketball team called Beşiktaş Icrypex, and finally Basket Zaragoza of the top professional Spanish basketball league, Liga ACB. Bone appeared in a total of 24 NBA games before heading overseas. He has seen moderate success in Europe, and Bone ended up being Zaragoza’s leading scorer with 11 points per game.
Currently listed on the Boston Celtics Summer League roster.
PF Kyle Alexander
Signed with the Miami Heat after going undrafted in 2019. Split time with them and their G-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce. After 2020, Alexander also went over to Spain and played a couple years with Fuenlabrada of the Liga ACB. He then came back over and just one month ago signed with the Scarborough Shooting Stars of the Canadian Elite Basketball League.
Currently listed on the Portland Trail Blazers Summer League roster as well.
PG Kennedy Chandler
It’s too early to tell how Chandler‘s career will go. But there is still some good news. Chandler returned to his hometown Grizzlies and recently signed the biggest guaranteed contract ever for an American second round pick. Evidently, the organization believes they got a great player with their 38th pick. Speaking as a Grizzlies fan, I was ecstatic with the Chandler selection. I really think they got a first round talent without having to spend a first round pick.