Scrolling up and down the list of top 100 prospects in the 2019 NBA Draft, it’s hard to find one-dimensional players.
There seems to be no place in the NBA for players limited to one position. Versatility is the name of the game. Position-less basketball is all the rage.
That’s why Amir Coffey’s chances tonight are the best the program’s had in years to snap the Gophers draft drought, which goes back to Kris Humphries being selected in 2004.
Another 6-foot-8 former Hopkins standout like Humphries, Coffey blossomed with the ball in his hands last season while leading Minnesota in points (16.6) and assists (3.2) per game as a junior. A playmaking wing with size to guard multiple positions on the perimeter, Coffey is being considered by teams from the middle-to-the-late second round of Thursday’s NBA Draft, according to his agent.
A big reason Coffey decided not to return to college is that several teams appear interested in him for a two-way contract with the NBA G League. But will one of them call his name on draft night?
He’s worked out for more than a dozen NBA teams since the end of the college hoops season, including eight from the Western Conference. His last stop was Tuesday in a second workout with the Golden State Warriors, which have the 41st (acquired Thursday) and 58th picks in the draft. The Sacramento Kings have three second-round picks (40th, 47th and 60th). The L.A. Clippers also have two picks in the second round (48th and 56th). Coffey has worked out for them both, as well as the New Orleans Pelicans (57th) and Toronto Raptors (59th).
Coffey’s three-point shooting was the biggest knock on him offensively after last season, only shooting 30 percent from long range. That dropped from 37 percent as a sophomore. He did shoot the ball better from beyond the arc at the end of the season when he took his game to a higher level.
In his last eight games, Coffey averaged 23.5 points. 5.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He was shooting 37 percent from three (13-for-35) in the seven games before losing to Michigan State in the NCAA tournament second round. He was 1-for-7 from deep in his final college game, but the entire defensive plan for the Spartans was to stop Coffey since senior standout Jordan Murphy was injured.
“I definitely think the end of the season gave him confidence,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said. “He had games where he was the best player on the court, if not one of the best in the league. I think if his (three-point) percentage wasn’t 30 and if it was 38, he’s a lock first rounder because of his size and his skill. He’s a better shooter than those numbers. It’s just a matter of getting that consistency. We weren’t a great shooting team to begin with. So maybe if there was a little more space those numbers go up a little bit.”
Going into last season, Coffey dropped off the NBA Draft radar coming off a shoulder injury that caused him to miss 15 games. The attention was mostly on Murphy, who was projected early as a late second-round pick after a breakout season in 2017-18.
Murphy proved again he was arguably the best rebounder in college basketball while lead the Big Ten in boards for the second straight year (11.0). A walking double-double, the 6-7, 250-pound San Antonio native didn’t show much improvement offensively. That’s a reason he isn’t expected to be drafted Thursday night, but Murphy and Coffey should have an opportunity to prove themselves in NBA G League next season drafted or not.
Big Ten top prospects in 2019 NBA Draft (NBADraft.net projection)
1. Romeo Langford, Indiana, First Round No. 22
2. Bruno Fernando, Maryland, First Round No. 27
3. Carsen Edwards, Purdue, Second Round No. 32
4. Isaiah Roby, Nebraska, Second Round No. 44
5. Jordan Poole, Michigan
6. Izzy Brazdeikis, Michigan
7. Charles Matthews, Michigan
8. Amir Coffey, Minnesota
9. Ethan Happ, Wisconsin
10. James Palmer Jr., Nebraska
11. Josh Reaves, Penn State
12. Tyler Coffey, Iowa
13. Juwan Morgan, Indiana
14. Jordan Murphy, Minnesota