Jimmy’s blog: Pons forced to delay decision on NBA

By Jimmy Hyams

One NBA mock draft has Tennessee forward Yves Pons going late in the first round.

Another has him projected as a late second-round pick.

Another doesn’t have him being drafted at all in 2020.

Pons, who blossomed as a junior last year into the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, has entered his name in the NBA draft with the option to return to college.

But Pons’ decision on whether to stay or go has been put on hold because the NBA has not decided when to conduct its draft, much less its combine in Chicago.

“I don’t see how he could make a decision (now),’’ is how Tennessee coach Rick Barnes put it in a recent interview on SportsTalk, WNML radio.

Barnes said he encourages players to test the NBA waters. It allows them to get an assessment of where their game is relative to the NBA.

“In his situation,’’ Barnes said of the 6-foot-6 athletic Pons, “there’s nothing wrong with him having a chance to be on the phone with NBA guys and talking to them and letting him hear directly feedback about his game and what he needs to do.’’

Barnes said there is “not a more mature guy’’ than Pons in terms of going through the process and listening to advice.

“If he could ask them one question,’’ Barnes said, “I know what his question would be: `What do I have to do to play in this league? Tell me every single thing that I have to do from my point of view where I can control fundamentally what I have to do. You tell me.’

“And I’ll promise you, he will take it to heart and go out and try to work on it.’’

Barnes said the feedback Pons will get from the NBA is “pretty much’’ the same feedback “he’s getting from us.’’

Barnes didn’t say what the feedback is, but you can bet part of it is rounding out Pons’ offensive game.

Pons became a scoring threat as a junior, going from averaging 1.6 points per game his first two seasons to 10.8. He shot 34.9 percent from 3-point range last season (30 of 86) after making just 28 percent (7 of 25) the year before. He also improved from the foul line, hitting 63.8 percent as a junior compared to 40 percent as a sophomore.

Pons also developed as a defender, blocking a shot in every game last season, totaling 73 rejections and showing an ability to guard any position on the court.

Pons’ improvement and athletic ability has the NBA interested, but that doesn’t guarantee Pons will be a first-round pick, or even get selected.

At some point, Barnes would like to know whether the man from France will be a Vol for another campaign.

“This is just me throwing it out there,’’ Barnes said, “I don’t think the NBA could even think about the draft because I do think they want to play basketball this summer.

“Right now, their thought process is to get the league up and running, then put the draft in where it doesn’t interfere with the season, and that’s likely late August.’’

The college deadline for players to withdraw from the NBA draft is Aug. 1, Barnes said.

“If you’re a (college) team that has a player or multiple players in this deal, you’d like to know honestly by the middle of July so we can go out and find somebody else (if necessary),’’ Barnes said.

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