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2022 NBA Draft Prospect Profiles: Kennedy Chandler

Kennedy Chandler could check many boxes in the present and future for the Memphis Grizzles that would make him a valuable 2022 first round pick.

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Michigan v Tennessee Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The prospect profiles continue on Grizzly Bear Blues. For more, visit the “Memphis Grizzlies 2022 Draft Coverage” group to see more of our profiles on draft prospects and their potential fits with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Kennedy Chandler, Point Guard, Tennessee

  • 6’0”, 6’5” Wingspan, 172 Pounds, 19 years old from Memphis, Tennessee
  • FRESHMAN YEAR AT TENNESSEE: In 34 Games (34 Starts, 30.8 minutes per game), 13.9 points game on 46.4% shooting (38.3% from 3, 60.6% on free throws), 4.7 assists per game, 3.2 rebounds per game, 2.2 steals per game, 1.4 threes per game, 2.5 turnovers per game
  • AWARDS AND ACCOLADES: 2022 ALL-SEC Second Team, 2022 ALL-SEC Freshman Team, 2022 ALL-SEC Tournament Team, 2022 SEC Tournament MVP
  • 3 STATS OF STRENGTH (per Tankathon): Steals (2.5 per 36), Defensive Win Shares (.092 per 40), AST/USG (1.29)
  • 3 STATS TO IMPROVE (per Tankathon): Free Throws (60.6%), Projected NBA 3P% (33.5%), True Shooting Percentage (53.9%)
  • CURRENT BIG BOARD POSITION: 19 (Tankathon), 20 (The Ringer), 19 (ESPN), 34 (CBS Sports), 29 (The Athletic), 24 (Bleacher Report)

Kennedy Chandler is likely one of the most well-known names among Grizzlies fans when it comes to the 2022 NBA Draft. While the sight or sound of his name may not generate the most positive reaction due to Chandler choosing to be a Tennessee Volunteer over being a Tiger, the fact remains that Memphis is his home. And for a city and fanbase that loves the game of basketball, it is hard not to love the way Chandler plays the game any chance he gets.

For years, Chandler has rightfully been considered one of the top point guard talents in the 2022 Draft Class. A playmaker on both ends of the court, Chandler relies on instinct and intelligence just as much as he does his physicals tools. Though he may be a bit undersized, Chandler’s quickness and athleticism, and his knowledge of how to use both, allows for him to remain productive against bigger bodies. Chandler consistently plays hard and plays to win, and as he showed in the 2022 SEC and NCAA Tournaments, he plays at his best on the biggest stages.

As a result, Kennedy Chandler should clearly be an attractive option for many teams in the NBA, especially those who are looking to add talents that can help them win immediately.

Areas of Strength

The best word to describe Kennedy Chandler is quick.

Quick Hands.

Quick Feet.

Quick Decision-Making.

The end result is typically Chandler making a quick and positive impact for his team when he steps on the court.

One of the aspects of Chandler’s game where it is easy to see these results is when he gets going downhill on offense. Whether it is off a screen in the pick and roll or via his own creation, Chandler moves quickly and confidently. However, he also remains in control. For his size, Chandler’s ability to score at the rim stands out. He was one of only 23 NCAA PGs to shoot better than 59% at the rim last season (min. 100 attempts). Of those 23 players, Chandler was the only freshman.

Outside of making plays for himself, Chandler also shows good decision making when it comes to making plays for others. He was one of only 15 NCAA players to have an AST% above 30% last year and, once again, was the only freshman on the list. He also was able to produce a 2:1 AST/TO ratio, showing good decision-making, especially as the point guard for one of the top teams in the country.

Chandler’s resourcefulness as a passer allows him to make plays in a variety of ways. As the clip above shows, Chandler can effectively find teammates with bounce passes or via lobs while going downhill. He also can make good entry passes or start effective perimeter ball movement in traditional sets. Chandler possesses effective “traditional” or “pure” PG skills that most players his age do not. If an NBA team is looking for a player than can score or set the table from the point guard position, Chandler should be able to do both, even as a rookie.

Another factor that makes Chandler attractive as a prospect is how good he is at making plays on the defensive end of the court. Chandler finished second in the SEC with 2.2 steals per game last season. As the highlights from his seven steals show, Chandler has the ability to create steals in a variety of ways:

  • when trailing the opposing offensive player
  • as a pick-pocket in one-on-one situations .
  • deflecting passes as an on-ball defender
  • intercepting passes as an off-ball defender

This resourcefulness allows Chandler to create havoc in many defensive coverages. Despite his size, Chandler also does a decent job of defending perimeter shot attempts and staying with his man. As his game matures, Chandler’s ability to turn defense into offense could be one of the best parts of his game as a pro. As quick as he is, Chandler could be highly effective in fast break opportunities.

Chandler’s playmaking ability on both ends of the court is certainly a rare combination for a player his age. Chandler is the only SEC freshman since 2008 to have an assist rate above 30% and a steal rate above 4%. When Chandler is on the court, his focus is to make sure plenty of positive things happen for him and his teammates.

Areas to Improve

Michigan v Tennessee Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

While Chandler possesses many impressive and positive qualities, one aspect of his profile that stands out as less than ideal is his size. Despite his athleticism, Chandler is a small point guard who could be limited against bigger players early in his NBA career. This could be an obstacle that Chandler will have to contend with both offensively and defensively.

Two aspects of his game that could help Chandler overcome his lack of size offensively is the ability to make floaters and jump shots. Unfortunately, these are the two parts of Chandler’s offensive game where improvement is needed the most. For instance, Chandler only made 32.4% of his 90 non-rim two point attempts last year. While he did a good job finding his own shot inside the arc, Chandler needs to make significant improvements on his form and accuracy. If he can improve these abilities, Chandler will be able to minimize any limitations his lack of size may create.

Of course, another part of Chandler’s game that will help define his career at the NBA level is his ability to shoot threes. Chandler shot 38.3% on 124 attempts last season. However, nearly 80% of those attempts were assisted, with many of Chandler’s makes coming through catch and shoot opportunities. In terms of hitting threes through self-creation, Chandler was far less successful. Overall, Chandler has the ability to find his own shot, especially within the arc. However, he must improve his mechanics, shooting form and ball handling to create space and convert looks consistently at the NBA level.

Defensively, as the numbers above show, Chandler does a pretty good job of making an impact with what he can control. However, Chandler naturally could experience issues going against bigger NBA bodies. This could impact his ability to limit opposing players in one-on-one or post-up situations. While Chandler may not find himself away from the perimeter than often, he will likely have to avoid fouling if he does. Chandler has the potential to be a positive value defender at the NBA level due to his ability to create turnovers. However, when he is not producing turnovers, he could become a liability that opposing offenses could expose.

Chandler’s ultimate long-term role in the NBA will likely be defined by how well of a shooter he can become and how consistent he can be at creating turnovers on defense.

Fit with the Grizzlies

Michigan v Tennessee Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

On the surface, it would seem as if Kennedy Chandler would be an odd fit for the Memphis Grizzlies. Ja Morant is the Grizzlies’ best player and one of the best point guards in the game. Tyus Jones is one of the best backup point guards in the NBA and naturally will be a priority for the Grizzlies to re-sign this offseason. Logic suggests the point guard position is not an area of need for the Grizzlies.

However, this is a situation that could quickly change. With Jones likely being one of the best point guard options on the open market this summer, the Grizzlies could find that he may get a bit too expensive, especially with the Grizzlies needing to be more mindful of player costs moving forward. If that is the case, then Chandler could naturally make sense as a cost effective option for the foreseeable future that could step right into the backup point guard role to support Morant.

Though it may not seem to be the best move to draft for need, selecting Chandler would be far more than just finding a cheap backup PG option for the Grizzlies. Chandler would be a wise investment for a team that has shown an outstanding ability to develop good perimeter prospects into players that make an impact on both ends of the court. He would be another versatile piece that Taylor Jenkins and his staff could utilize in multiple ways. Furthermore, with proof that Morant could be slowed by injuries at times, Chandler also possesses the ability to step up as a spot starter and help the Grizzlies remain effective. Though their games are a bit different, Chandler could in time develop into a similar type of player that Jones has been for the Grizzlies over the past three years.

Plus, its never a bad idea to add a talent to your roster that has close ties to your franchise player. While the Grizzlies are going to always draft talents they feel will best help them on the court, they also put value on adding guys who have close ties to current Grizzlies already on the roster (for example, drafting Xavier Tillman with his history with Jaren Jackson Jr.). If Jones were to leave in free agency, its hard to find a better situation than adding a player with Chandler’s upside to become Morant’s backup for years to come.

While it is far too early to suggest Kennedy Chandler will primarily be a backup point guard at the NBA level, its hard to deny a better opportunity out there than backing up Ja Morant. Not only would Chandler have the ability to learn first hand from one of the best point guards in the game, he also would be apart of one of the best development programs in the NBA. Both of these aspects could benefit Memphis and Chandler if the Grizzlies decide he should be their selection come draft night.

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