The Vols’ first-year point guard, Kennedy Chandler, is having a somewhat odd season. Chandler was a unanimous five-star prospect and the No. 1 point guard in the 2021 recruiting class before coming to Knoxville. Debuting in orange and white, Chandler dazzled. Over the first seven games of the season, Chandler averaged 16.2 points and seemed to live up to every part of his five-star billing. Then things took a turn in the loss to Texas Tech at Madison Square Garden.
Since that horrible game, Chandler’s average production has dropped to 11.8 points. His assist numbers throughout the season have remained consistent around 4.8 per game and he has typically played around 30 minutes each outing.
Those numbers, even after the Texas Tech debacle, are certainly not bad. In fact, they would be considered perfectly good for a more typical first-year point guard. But statistics aren’t the only thing to consider here. If you’ve watched most Vol basketball games this season, you’ve probably noticed that something isn’t quite clicking with Chandler.
His talent and abilities are obviously all there and it sometimes flashes, but a lot of times he just doesn’t seem completely at ease. It might be Rick Barnes coaching, just growing pains, or a mix of things, but it’s pretty obvious that Chandler isn’t living up to his potential right now.
It was perhaps never more evident than final possession in UT’s loss to Texas on Jan. 29 when fellow freshman point guard and emerging fan favorite Zakai Zeigler was given the responsibility of lead the potentially winning play instead of Chandler.
And just like Vol fans, NBA analysts also took note of Chandler’s slower-than-expected season. Chandler began his time at Tennessee being predicted that he would be drafted to the NBA in the top 15 in 2022, but more recent drafts place it all the way back in the 2nd round to the 36th. For reference, 2020-21 Tennessee stars Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer were both drafted in the first round at 21st and 28th, respectively.
So, would Kennedy Chandler potentially stay in Knoxville for another season since his draft profile has dropped and he still has a ways to go?
To be frank, I doubt it. Never say never, but it’s clear analysts still view Chandler as an NBA-ready prospect. He’s just not as ready as we initially thought.
Of course, he could come back for another season and eventually work his way up to first-round high. In fact, I believe if he returned for another season he would be one of the best playmakers in the country and do just that. But, Chandler could also just go ahead and continue his professional career and move up the ranks while making a nice NBA paycheck leaving after this year.
So I’ll put it this way: Could he come back for another year? Yes. Is this likely to happen? Not very. And I can’t blame him if he chooses to turn pro. I want to see Vol players flourish and have great professional careers and if Chandler thinks leaving is what will best help him achieve that goal, I say, go earn your money, young man.
Featured Image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports