Remember all the production that we talked about Iowa losing from the 2015-16 team with the departures of seniors Mike Gesell, Adam Woodbury, AnthonyClemmons, and Jarrod Uthoff? Well, Iowa might be losing even more production than that, because Peter Jok announced his intention to test the NBA Draft waters on Wednesday:
Can confirm Peter Jok will go through the new NBA draft process, has full support of Fran McCaffery. Doesn't mean he won't come back.— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) March 23, 2016
Jok was Iowa's second leading scorer (16.1 ppg on 43% FG shooting) and Iowa's top 3-point shooter (80/199, 40%). He also averaged 3.5 rpg, 1.4 apg, and was second on the team in steals (40, 1.3 per game) thanks to his improved ability read passing lanes. Needless to say, Jok's departure would be a big blow for a team that's already losing quite a bit and will be relying heavily on newcomers and less experienced players next winter.
That said, the changes made to the NBA draft process have made it easier (and less punitive) to make decisions like this. "Declaring for the draft" doesn't mean the same thing that it used to mean. As SI explains in greater detail:
The final date for players to declare for the draft or remove their names from consideration will now come 10 days after the conclusion of the NBA draft combine, in which players complete physical and skills testing in front of scouts and team personnel. The 2016 draft combine is set for May 11-15 in Chicago, so May 25 will mark this year's deadline.
College players will be allowed to participate in the combine multiple times without jeopardizing their eligibility, meaning players can theoretically declare for the draft each year and then withdraw prior to the deadline if they choose. They will also be allowed to work out once per NBA franchise per year. The rules used to stipulate that players who officially declared for the draft twice would lose their collegiate eligibility. Underclassman can now declare for the draft, work out at the combine, and then use the next 10 days to make a final, informed decision based on feedback from teams.
Basically, as long as you don't sign with an agent, you can dip your toes in the NBA draft waters without peril -- hell, you can damn near bathe in the NBA draft waters. The new process allows players to get a lot more evaluation and analysis from NBA scouts and front office personnel, which should make it easier for them to make well-informed decisions about their future. (The key word there, of course, is "should" -- we are still dealing with 18-22 year olds here.) The new process actively incentivizes players to declare for the draft, something that one prominent NCAA coach is fully encouraging:
With that being said, every player who is eligible for the draft, including our walk-ons, will submit their names for the NBA Draft ...— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) March 23, 2016
In Jok's case, while he made tremendous strides this year in multiple areas, it's still hard to envision him getting a grade back from the NBA folks that would make staying in the NBA Draft a particularly wise decision for him. Jok is not on ESPN's Top 100 2016 draft prospects ($), nor is he on their lists of top shooting guards (which goes 49 deep) or small forwards (which goes 57 deep). He's not listed in Draft Express' Top 100 prospects, or in their list of the Top 79 junior prospects. Those resources aren't the be-all, end-all, but it's pretty clear that at this point Jok is not exactly on the radar of NBA draft experts. Does it make sense to stay in the NBA Draft if your absolute best case scenario (and one that doesn't seem too likely at that) is to be a late second-round pick?
It's true that the NBA prioritizes -- fetishizes, really -- youth and potential in the draft process and going back to school and getting another year older wouldn't help Jok in that regard. But it's not true that another year of development in college will automatically hurt players, either -- Jarrod Uthoff and Oklahoma's Buddy Hield come to mind as two players who have improved their draft stock with stellar senior seasons this year. Could Jok do the same next year? Maybe. He should have no shortage of opportunities at Iowa as the Hawkeyes' best shooter and most reliable scorer. The offense would likely run through him. There are a lot of things Jok needs to improve -- his handle, his defense, his ability to finish near the rim, to name a few -- and another year at Iowa might allow him to do just that.
But for now we wait. So long as he doesn't sign an agent (and he does not intend to do so, per The Gazette's Scott Dochterman), Jok has until May 25 to decide whether or not to stay in the NBA Draft pool or return to Iowa. In case you were wondering, the last player to declare for the NBA Draft before his eligibility had expired was Ricky Davis.