Tracking Amir Coffey during the NBA Draft process you get a sense there’s a larger contingent that wants the Gophers star to come back than there are folks hoping to see him drafted this summer.
Coffey, an All-Big Ten junior guard, is weighing both options heading into Wednesday's 10:59 p.m. central time deadline to withdraw his name from the 2019 NBA Draft.
“The timing felt right after our successful season,” he wrote on Instagram after the Star Tribune reported April 3 that Coffey would test the waters and sign with an agent.
Gophers fans obviously hope that Coffey returns for his senior year. Minnesota coach Richard Pitino can see the program benefitting if Coffey stays in college or if he becomes the first U player since Kris Humphries in 2004 to be drafted.
Coffey made it clear in April why he declared for the draft, but should he wait to pursue his NBA dream?
Below are three reasons why Coffey would remain in the draft and three reasons he’d play another year with Pitino and the Gophers:
WHY WOULD HE LEAVE?
Believes he’s ready to be a pro – All the hard work that Coffey went through training since learning the game at a young age from his father, Richard, a former Gophers and Timberwolves player has been for an opportunity to play in the NBA. Coffey will leave now if believes he’s ready to take the next step and prove he can earn a spot in the league. Of course, he's ready to get paid to play basketball. But does he believe he's ready to make playing basketball his full-time job? Making an NBA team will require him to fill a role, which is likely a versatile wing who can defend multiple positions and be an outside shooting threat. Coffey slightly changed his shooting mechanics this spring to improve his three-point accuracy. He was seen nailing 10 threes in a row during a drill at the NBA G League Elite Camp earlier this month in Chicago.
Believes he can better develop better in NBA G League – Even a majority of first-round picks these days spend time developing in the NBA G League. What was once called the NBA’s development league is now the closet to a minor league system with all 30 NBA teams having affiliates. Coffey could leave because he feels honing his craft next year in the G League is better than spending another year in college to prepare himself to make an actual NBA roster. Two-way contracts allow players now to jump from the G League to the NBA with bigger salary opportunities. Coffey’s G League elite camp experience opened the eyes of more teams. The Brooklyn Nets, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers and Boston Celtics are among NBA teams he’s worked out for this month. Coffey also will work out Wednesday afternoon with the Sacramento Kings before making his decision.
Taking advantage of strong finish – Coming off missing 15 games with a shoulder injury his sophomore year, Coffey averaged 16.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game for the Gophers as a junior last season. His final eight games showed his immense potential. Coffey took his game to an elite level with averages of 23.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.1 steals. He also became the first Gopher to score at least 30 points in back-to-back games since 2005 to help his team reach the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years. Two big questions for Coffey are whether he and the Gophers can duplicate that type of success next season with a different team (Four seniors are gone, including captains Jordan Murphy and Dupree McBrayer).
WHY WOULD HE STAY?
Unfinished business with Gophers – If Coffey comes back to college he would be a Big Ten player of the year and All-American candidate, experts say. The Gophers would likely be a preseason top 25 team with starters Coffey, Gabe Kalscheur and Daniel Oturu returning from a 22-win squad that beat Louisville in the NCAA tournament first round. Pitino said it could be his best team with the Gophers – and Coffey could establish himself as one of the school’s all-time best players. He also could finish in the top 3 in scoring in Gophers history.
Improve NBA stock – Coffey is considered a mid-second round pick to undrafted prospect right now after not being invited to the NBA Combine in Chicago. He could be in the exact same position a year from now if he returns to school (just look at Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ and Nebraska’s James Palmer Jr.). Still, there is also a good chance that Coffey can boost his NBA draft stock to even be considered a first-round pick. He fits an NBA mold with his size and still that's different from Happ and Palmer. Their lack of stock improvement might not be something to concern Coffey. Also, if Coffey got injured playing during his senior year, the Gophers looked into an insurance policy that would pay him six figures for missing out on a potential pro contract.
Get a degree for life after basketball – After four years, Coffey would graduate with a degree in youth studies. Sure, he could always return to the U to graduate after pursuing his NBA dreams. That might take longer than you’d think, especially if his career is long. No matter what having a college degree will help Coffey with his life after basketball much like it did for his father.