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Tennesse’s Kennedy Chandler brings tenacity, poise, and explosion at the point

With James Harden and Tyrese Maxey leading the way, would the Sixers draft another lead-guard?

Michigan v Tennessee Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The 2022 NBA Draft will be held on Thursday, June 23. Since the Nets decided to defer the pick owed to them as part of the James Harden trade, the Sixers will select 23rd overall. Ahead of the draft, we’ll look at several prospects that could fit the Sixers and be realistic possibilities at No. 23.

With Tobias Harris and Jaden Springer in town, the Sixers could take a good look at a third Tennessee Volunteer next week in Kennedy Chandler. One of the top pure point guards on mainstream draft boards, Chandler really blossomed as the stakes rose over his team’s final 15 games.

The 19 year-old out of Memphis checks in at a diminutive 6-0, (5-11 barefoot) 172 pounds, but his plus 6-5 wingspan offers just enough length to really rack up steals on D and helps him finish amongst the trees with both hands:

What he lacks in size and weight, he makes up for in skill, unpredictability, elusiveness, good shooting, some cunning defensive timing, plus tons of passion and heart.

The Sixers don’t have a glaring need at point (or combo) guard, but ESPN’s Jonathan Givony argues the fit is still there for Philadelphia. From a recent ESPN mock:

“With James Harden turning 33 in August and on the downside of his career from a physical standpoint, adding another talented ball handler to the backcourt will likely be a major priority for the Sixers, if only to protect Harden’s health and ensure he’s at his best entering the playoffs. After a rocky start, Chandler emerged as one of the premier college point guards in the second half of last season, showing blazing speed, dynamic ballhandling and passing ability, and an increasingly consistent pull-up jumper.... The fact that he proved capable of playing off the ball in two- and three-guard lineups should be attractive as well.”

Overall Rankings

  • ESPN’s Givony ranks Chandler: 19th overall
  • The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor: 23rd
  • The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie: 29th
  • Jeremy Woo of SI: 40th
  • CBS: 22nd


2022 NBA Draft Combine Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

As noted, Chandler impressed down the stretch of last season and likely earned himself one and done status. Many think he’s a first round talent, and one of the top point guards in the pool, often ranking behind only Kentucky’s TyTy Washington among pure PGs.

Chandler started in 34 games for the Vols averaging 13.9 points on 46.4 percent shooting (38.3% from three, 60.6% from the stripe), 4.7 assists per game, 2.2 steals, and 2.5 turnovers. He was ALL-SEC Second Team and All-SEC Freshman Team, and Tournament MVP of the SEC as well.

Some very impressive game film makes him hard to overlook, even if you have your heart set on a rangier wing or stretch four:

According to Chandler averaged “a tremendous 1.28 points per catch and shoot jump shot [89th percentile], he shot the ball at a high level with his feet set.” That’s a key part of why he was able to finish over 38 percent on solid (4.4 3pa per 36) volume from distance.

Chandler started the year relatively slow but then his confidence expanded as he started roasting the competition over the second half of the year with efficient play.

It required the full focus of Michigan’s defensive attention to finally get the ball out of his hands and end the Vols’ run.

He’s explosive and crafty with the ball in his hands, exercising the half court patience and slickness of a far more experienced prospect. The game isn’t too fast for him.

As The Stepien’s Jake Rosen put it:

“Saying that he “takes what the defense gives him” would be downplaying his individual effectiveness. Instead, it’s something like “taking a mile when the defense gives him an inch.” One false step, one second with your guard down, you might as well wave the white flag.”

If you’re someone who values college production (like Daryl Morey says he does), competitive fire, and an ability to takeover a game, there’s plenty to get excited about.

And no one should doubt how much passion KC plays with:

You can tell by those lofty steal averages that he has quick hands. As wrote:

“He allowed just 0.63 points per isolation possession [70th percentile] giving up little to more experienced guards off the dribble. While he was not immune to shading himself out of plays, he was remarkably solid for a freshman guard giving up size in many matchups.

• Chipping in on the glass, pressuring the ball beyond half court, and coming up with several memorable blocks, his diligence figures to be an asset at the next level, especially as his frame matures.”


2022 NBA Draft Combine Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

The biggest issue here is simply his size. It’s hard to give up this much height and weight and win on the highest stage. If there’s already a lot of error involved for teams when selecting in the 20’s, selecting really small guards probably doesn’t help a GM’s chances.

While (6-1 and under) names like Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Trae Young, Fred VanVleet, Allen Iverson, Chris Paul, Aaron Brooks, Pat Beverley, Terry Rozier, Donovan Mitchell, Jalen Brunson, Mike Conley and others have certainly proven it’s more about the size of the fight in the dog, it’s fair to say these guys are probably outliers and a few of those guys were straight up phenom talents; others were freak athletes, and built sturdier.

A lengthy wing who can stick wide open threes might offer a team a safer floor than Chandler, and have a simpler path to rotation minutes in 2023 and 2024.

Point guards in particular take time to learn the pro game and develop. And no matter how tenacious Chandler might be on defense, there’s a chance for teams to overwhelm him with size, especially early in his career.

With that being said if there are any red flags in terms of shooting, it makes things even more difficult.

And we do have some concerns there regarding his off dribble jumpers and his surprisingly low freshman year free throw percentage of 60 percent (he shot much better in high school from the stripe).

Can he become a true lead guard even in a reserve role? We didn’t see him run a ton of pick-and-roll given Tennesse’s schemes. If he cannot, or if that takes years to develop, the idea of a 6’ catch-and-shoot spot up player isn’t that appealing for most contenders; unless you’re talking about an absolutely lethal Patty Mills-esque sniper pulling defenders with him everywhere he goes and raining threes anyway.

Chandler’s TS% wasn’t off the charts at .539. His poor 60.6% FT hints at potential red flags in terms of the jump shot. According to Adam Spinella, Chandlers shot 8 of 33 on off dribble triples.

Let’s look at his form for a moment. It does seem as if Chandler has a pretty acute angle on his shooting arm. Notice guys like Steve Nash, or Steph Curry have more of an L or 90 degree shape with their biceps and forearm. Nash’s shooting arm makes a bit of an L, with his wrist flexed backwards:

Chander’s looks more like a slice of pizza than an L, his wrist isn’t flexed backwards much, and he may be touching his hairline too:

Another angle on Nash’s L and wrist, locked and loaded. These mechanics are easy to repeat so young players can develop muscle memory and shoot the same way each time:

Another look at Chandler’s shooting arm angle and wrist. Maybe making light contact with his forehead, from his Pro Day:

Steph Curry at his pro day, our angles appear similar to Nash’s. Notice the ball is also much further away from his face than Chandler’s release:

It’s certainly not fair to benchmark Kennedy to two of the greatest shooters of all time. No team needs him to become that to make an impact.

But it’s worth noting some of the mechanical differences we can spot, when asking the questions “why wasn’t Chandler a better pull up or free throw shooter last season?” Or “can we at least bank on the shot, if not the stalwart defense?” If he’s the right kind of gym rat these things can potentially be fixed.

Fit on Sixers

I don’t dislike Chander’s jump shot, I actually like it, I’m just being picky. His tournament performances were downright impressive, and his lack of hesitation on deep attempts is really encouraging. That he improved so much over the course of this season is a great sign a team some team might see exponential growth. But if we’re even remotely wondering about the shot, do we want to use an important draft pick on a player who is also small?

Imagining Doc Rivers tasking Chandler with guarding one of Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum or Marcus Smart one year from now in a crucial moment feels farfetched to put it mildly. Can Philadelphia play him at the same time as James Harden and Tyrese Maxey? Maybe not. But if the shot comes along, could he provide a bit of Maxey-lite value?

Even if Chandler were the best defender of that trio from day one, it presents some real challenges in terms of rebounding, etc.

If you believed in the overall talent, if he was your best player available when you’re on the clock, then you could easily talk yourself into the fit. The idea Givony presents where he can be deployed alongside one if not both of your top guards, while spelling the other, is certainly interesting. If Harden doesn’t stay beyond the next two-three seasons, maybe you’ve ramped up the best PG in this draft by then. Chandler’s ball skills are a bit more advanced than some wings in this range. He was more polished as a freshman than a Swiss Army knife player like Dalen Terry, who a few of us at LB love. That should count for something. In his exit, Joel Embiid talked about how Miami could double and triple team him without worrying too much about his spot up shooters. Could Chandler become someone to make them worry?

Still, I tend to prefer the idea of players who at least have a real chance to grow into larger roles alongside the 76ers core. If you hit a home run with Chandler, perhaps you have a terrific sixth man, a microwave reserve, or some newfound trade value in his first two years. If you hit a home run with one of the wings, you might just have a player for a closing lineup. So personally, I like being a bit “greedier” in principle.

All that being said, if Daryl Morey’s models say Chandler might hit 37 percent from deep on eight attempts per 36, if Vince Rozman says he’s got just enough hooper and dog in him, I’m not going to be the guy who whines about fit and misses out on the next Nikola Jokic because I was worried about our preexisting glut at the position.

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