By Jimmy Hyams
As expected, Tennessee’s two-time SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams announced Friday he is staying in the NBA draft.
What was not expected were the numbers posted by UT guard Jordan Bone at the NBA Combine in Chicago.
Among the 66 invited to the combine – not all competed in drills – Bone was No. 1 in vertical jump (42.5 inches), standing vertical (36 inches), three-fourths court sprint (3.03 seconds), lane agility (9.97 seconds) and NBA shuttle drill (2.78 seconds).
The lane agility time was the fastest since 2001.
While Bone is not projected by most mocks to be drafted, he might be the best NBA prospect of UT’s trio that is trying to make it this year. He has elite speed and leaping ability. His assist-to-turnover ratio ranked among the best in the SEC. He can penetrate and hit pull-up jumpers near the basket.
Bone needs to improve his 3-point shooting and make better decisions when passing. At times he leaps in the air without knowing where he’ll pass.
But his measurables are off the chart.
His 3.03 in the three-fourths of a court dash were better than Derrick Rose (3.05) and Russell Westbrook (3.08). His vertical was better than Rose (40 inches) and Westbrook (36.5)
That doesn’t mean Bone can or will be as good as Rose and Westbrook – both are far better scorers than Bone. But it does enhance Bone’s draftability.
Tennessee coach Rick Barnes confirmed in an interview earlier this week on Sports Talk, WNML radio that Bone was going pro.
“We felt that all along,’’ Barnes said when asked if he expected Bone to stay in the NBA draft. “When he left, that was pretty much his thought process.’’
While Bone had an outstanding junior season at Tennessee, he will be easier to replace than Williams. The Vols have two solid guards returning in Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden and UT signed a 5-star recruit in Josiah James, who could easily be among UT’s top two scorers this season.
Williams measured 6-5 ¾ with a four percent body fat and a 6-9 ¾ wing span.
Admiral Schofield had 6.8 percent body fat with a 6-10 wingspan on a 6-4 frame.
Replacing Williams and his 18.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game will be much more difficult than losing Bone – in part because UT doesn’t have anyone waiting in the wings to bang inside.
Is John Fulkerson ready to step up?
Is DJ Burns, who redshirted as a freshman last year?
What about Zach Kent?
Burns has the best chance to be physical inside, but he has no experience going against SEC big men. Neither does Kent. And Fulkerson was inconsistent.
Tennessee’s outlook would be much more favorable if they could sign the 7-foot-1 transfer from Arizona State or Virginia Tech grad transfer Kerry Blackshear, who could be worth four or five wins. Blackshear has entered the NCAA transfer portal and the NBA draft.
Without a proven inside presence, UT could go from 31 wins to an NIT team.
Much depends on the development of current players or the addition of an impact transfer.