Tennessee basketball has needs to address on its roster through the transfer portal following another strong season.
The Vols and coach Rick Barnes likely have two scholarships to work with to add transfers, but the number could increase if any current players transfer or Julian Phillips declares for the NBA Draft. It also could decrease if any of the four outgoing seniors opt to return for a fifth season.
Here is what Tennessee should aim to do in the transfer portal:
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Tennessee has used the portal throughout Barnes’ tenure. But it has yet to land a high-level impact transfer and instead has brought in supplemental pieces.
Victor Bailey Jr. probably is the closest thing to a game-changing addition. Uros Plavsic turned into a starter and serviceable player. Justin Powell was hoped to be a major transfer. Tyreke Key was good but not great. E.J. Anosike did little in his time in Knoxville.
The Vols have to hit with a different caliber of transfer and rely less on project-type transfers.
Tennessee tried to find a playmaking point guard in the portal last offseason after the success it had with Kennedy Chandler and Zakai Zeigler in the 2021-22 season. It will chase the same this offseason, especially in light of Zeigler’s ACL injury and surgery in March.
Zeigler carried the load alone this season given neither Tyreke Key nor B.J. Edwards is a true point guard. He excelled, but Tennessee could still use another option as a ballhandler who can either shoot at a high clip or create for other scorers.
Freddie Dilione will play point guard for UT, but the Vols shouldn’t enter next season with Dilione as the only point guard coming off a healthy offseason.
Tennessee hasn’t had a consistent scoring threat on the interior since Grant Williams went to the NBA following the 2018-19 season. John Fulkerson performed in spurts. Olivier Nkamhoua had some elite games.
Jonas Aidoo and Tobe Awaka are nice returning forwards. Aidoo is a standout defender who has some scoring savvy. Awaka is a big-time rebounder who contributes with second-chance and hustle points. But neither is a true scoring forward that UT can throw the ball into the post to go and score when its needs to create inside.
Barnes wants an offense that operates inside-out to lead to good 3-point looks. That starts with having a legitimate threat to score in the post.
Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.
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