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Know the Prospect: Kennedy Chandler

The sleeper pick who’s been compared to Chris Paul.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament - Second Round - Indianapolis Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

This season, Tennessee finished with a 27-8 (14-4, 2nd in SEC) record and lost 76-68 to Michigan in the second round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament. Freshman Kennedy Chandler (6’0”, 172 lbs) was the team’s leader on the floor and in points per game (13.9), assists (4.7), and field goal attempts (11.5). The 19-year-old saw plenty of action with an average of 30.8 minutes per contest for the Volunteers.

Now the one-and-done who draws comparisons to Chris Paul waits to see where he will fall in the draft. He’s worked out for multiple teams with mid-draft picks, including the Hawks, Hornets, Cavaliers, Rockets, Bulls, Bucks, and Spurs. Should the New York Knicks, who may or may not need a point guard, be interested?

Chandler may be small but don’t call him diminutive. Compared to his SEC peers, he ranked second in steals (2.2), fourth in steal percentage (4.1%), and fifth in effective field goal percentage (52.7%), total assists (161), field goal percentage (46%), and assist percentage (32.3%). He rated ninth in total points produced with 479.

The Memphis, TN native shot 46% from the floor and 38% from deep, and had a player efficiency rating of 20.2.

Chandler played alongside Chet Holmgren and Jaden Ivey on the USA Basketball Men’s U19 Team that took gold at the 2021 FIBA U19 World Cup.

In his brief career, he’s filled up the award shelf: 2021-22 All-SEC - 2nd Team, 2021-22 SEC All-Freshman, 2021-22 Wooden Award – Preseason, 2022 All-SEC Tournament, and 2022 SEC Tournament MVP.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer lists him 31st on his mock draft board and compares him to Darius Garland, Tyrese Maxey, and Jameer Nelson. I don’t know about those comps, but the placement feels about right. O’Connor’s summary of Chandler reads, “Fluid shooter off the dribble. He’s comfortable pulling up from 3 or midrange. He also shot 40.5 percent on 79 catch-and-shoot attempts. With a quick release and tight handle, there’s upside for him to become a lethal shooter if he develops consistency.”

This year, 44% of Chandler’s shots came at the rim, where he sank 59%. Only 23% of his shots were two-point jumpers, which he completed at a paltry 33%. And, 33% of his shots were from deep—an average of 3.8—where he made 38%. (Stats courtesy of Hoop-Math.com.)

Chandler is a pest at the point of attack and a disruptive defender who finished with a defensive rating of 92.1. He’s a wily point guard with excellent handles who is adept at changing speeds and excels in the pick-and-roll.

He shot only 61% from the free throw line on 2.9 attempts per game. Given his size, the fact that he doesn’t press the paint or grab many rebounds is no surprise. Against mature, NBA bodies, it will be even harder for the smallish point guard to reach the rim and see through traffic. Chris Paul is the exception, not the standard.

In December, he scored a career-high 27 points against Colorado and finished 13-for-20 from the field, despite going 1-for-6 from deep. Of the 34 games played, however, he shot under 39% from the field in 12, including a few ghastlies (1-for-9, 2-for-14, etc.). Hence, consistency is a concern.

Let’s not belabor it. The Knicks claimed another defensive-minded Volunteer point guard in last year’s draft, my man Deuce McBride. Reading the tea leaves, I don’t foresee them drafting or signing another point guard who doesn’t provide an immediate impact on winning. Chandler feels like a project to be developed in the G-League or in reserve minutes. The young man is an intriguing talent, but I think he’s a pass for New York.

Getting excited for Draft Night? Me, too. Peace til next time.