Fortunately for Tennessee – and for Tyler Smith, apparently – he changed his mind and opted to return to The Hill for the 2008-09 season. Projected as a late-first round/early second-round choice had he declared for the '08 draft, Smith appears to be a sure-fire first-rounder in '09. Odds are, he will be a much hotter commodity in the 2009 NBA Draft than he would've been in the recent 2008 draft.
After playing power forward last season at 6-7, Smith will need much better perimeter skills to play in the NBA. He'll get more opportunities to improve in that area for the 2008-09 Vols, since the progress of 6-10 sophomore Brian Williams will free Smith to spend more time away from the basket.
Smith proved he can be a big-time scorer on a night-in, night-out basis in the Pilot Rocky Top Summer League, averaging 30.6 points per game and shooting 56.6 percent from the floor en route to winning league MVP honors for the second year in a row.
Finally, the talent available for the 2009 NBA Draft does not appear to be as deep as the 2008 draft, which will help Smith's quest to move up into a lottery spot. In fact, a recent article by Gary Parrish at CBSsportsline.com featured a headline trumpeting the fact that "Draft class for '09 a step down – right now."
Even assuming that several college freshmen will declare for the '09 draft, Parrish projects Smith as the 13th pick next year.
Parrish's top 10 are as follows:
2. DeMar DeRozan, incoming freshman, Southern Cal
10. Ty Lawson, North Carolina