The NBA draft process for the first time will include a new camp that allows all 30 NBA teams a chance to look at more prospects, some of whom hope to earn an invitation to the league’s draft combine.
Gophers junior guard Amir Coffey is one of those players still vying for an invitation to the combine. And he will get another shot to make it there through the new event called the NBA G League Elite Camp. Sources told the Star Tribune he received his camp invitation this week.
Coffey, who led the Gophers in scoring (16.6) and assists (3.2) this season, will compete to be among a select group of draft-eligible players added to the NBA combine based on their performance at the G League camp May 12-14. The combine starts right after the camp, and both events are in Chicago.
“The NBA is trying to get more eyes on kids in mid-May before they have to make the decision to go back to college or stay in the draft,” ESPN college basketball and draft analyst Fran Fraschilla said. “The G League Elite Camp that is going to involve players like Amir Coffey is an insurance policy for NBA teams who know he’s got the potential to play in the league. It gives them another chance to put eyeballs on him both in the G League camp and potentially the combine.”
Coffey declared for the draft and hired an agent in early April. The 6-8 former Hopkins star is taking advantage of new NCAA rules allowing non-seniors to use agents through the draft process and still retain their college eligibility if they withdraw from the early entry list on May 29, which is 10 days after the combine.
“He’s definitely good enough to play in the G League next year,” Fraschilla said of Coffey. “I think he’s potentially a guy who could get a two-way contract or be a second-round pick and get a guaranteed deal. All those things are on the table for him.”
During a breakout junior season, Coffey averaged 23.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.1 steals in his last eight games. He had back-to-back 30-point games vs. Purdue and Northwestern to help the Gophers get an NCAA tournament bid. Coffey finished with 27 points in the Gophers’ NCAA tournament second-round loss to Michigan State.
Coffey and senior forward Jordan Murphy, who finished his Gophers career as the school’s all-time leading rebounder, were both All-Big Ten selections this season. Murphy was not invited to the NBA combine or the G League camp, which primarily was for underclassmen. Still, Murphy has received interest from several NBA teams about predraft workouts in May.
Gophers coach Richard Pitino said last month that he supported Coffey’s decision to test the draft process.
“That’s something his father and I had spoken about,” Pitino said. “If it is a situation where he gets very positive feedback, that’s a dream of his, so I would support him [leaving] 100 percent. If there’s uncertainty, obviously from a basketball coach’s standpoint we’re going to get a really, really good player back. So it’s a win-win situation.”