Kennedy Chandler can hoop. He passes the eye test with flying colors, but his lack of size and strength could hurt his NBA Draft stock. As a freshman, Chandler was named Second-Team All-SEC, SEC All-Freshman Team, and SEC Tournament MVP. That’s quite a long resumé for a one-and-done player.
Although he might need some seasoning in the G League next season, Chandler has potential as a point guard. His strong feel in the pick-and-roll and flashes of three-point shooting are two reasons why scouts are taking notice. Like any prospect, he comes with a few concerns, but he’s firmly in the conversation as a first-round pick right now.
After the musical chairs-like trading of first-round picks in two James Harden deals, the Brooklyn Nets are picking at No. 23 (originally Philadelphia’s pick). Unless Chandler receives a big-time push at the combine or in individual workouts, he’s going to be a late first-rounder.
Strengths: Pick-and-Roll Growth, Perimeter Defense
Anyone who watches the NBA knows the importance of the pick-and-roll. It’s a play that is ubiquitous no matter who is playing. Chandler’s bonafides as a ballhandler and creator out of the pick-and-roll are going to be the reason why someone takes a chance on him.
During one collegiate season, Chandler scored or assisted on 33.6% of Tennessee’s points. This high usage resulted from his innate ability to attack the rim and catch-and-shoot prowess from beyond the arc. A 38.3% clip from deep is nothing to sneeze at.
Playing for Rick Barnes gave the freshman a crash course in how to be a floor general. There is a long line of guards who went from playing for Barnes to the pros.
Defensively, Chandler is a pest. He racked up 74 steals for Tennessee by way of his long arms and natural instincts. If his 6′ 5.25″ wingspan plays up at the next level, he’ll be a dog on the perimeter.
Weaknesses: Free Throws, Physicality
The three-point shooting paints a hopeful picture of Chandler’s NBA future. His free-throw percentage does not. The freshman shot 60.6% from the line on 2.9 attempts per game. This is concerning on two levels. First off, for a player who loves to attack the rim, he doesn’t go to the line enough. And when get draws the fouls, he’s not converting on those opportunities.
Physicality could be another issue for Chandler in the NBA. He weighed in at 172.2 pounds at the NBA combine. If he doesn’t bulk up, he could be an easy mismatch for opponents to target. His long wingspan can help, but it won’t be a cure-all defensively.
From the Expert: Tennessee Assistant Gregg Polinsky
Current Tennessee Volunteer assistant and long-time NBA scout Gregg Polinsky talked about Chandler during an appearance on ESNY’s Knicks State of Mind podcast. He gave some insight as to how he would scout Chandler.
“If you’re telling me with my eyes — we used to do a thing called eyes, ears, and numbers — where we take the intel out of this and the personality out of this. Let’s just talk about our eyes, what we’re seeing,” Polinsky said. “I would see a guy that has really good NBA speed with the ball. Let’s talk NBA, not college.
“Really good NBA speed with the ball and ability to get downhill. He became a high-level finisher at the end of the year — wrong foot layups, high off the glass, good touch. Got better in pick-and-roll, learning how to play it in a lot of drop situations that we encountered — snaking it, using the floater, we still believe in the pull-up.”
Fit With the Nets
This is a tough call for the Nets. It can’t hurt to add another point guard considering the fact that Patty Mills has one year left on his deal and Kyrie Irving should still be considered a wild card. But for a team that wants to play for a championship next year, does it make sense to invest in Chandler?
If the Nets are content to let the 19-year-old develop at his own pace, he makes complete sense at pick No. 23. But if they are looking for an immediate impact player who fills a current need on the roster, there are going to be better options on the board.
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