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Coffey Potential First Round Pick

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June 21, 2018

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Nobody is talking about Amir Coffey right now but a basketball authority told Sports Headliners that a year from now the former Minnesota Mr. Basketball could be a first round selection in the NBA Draft.

Tonight’s 2018 NBA Draft prompts interest locally because the Timberwolves have the No. 20 selection in the first round. Gary Trent Jr., who played at Apple Valley High School and for Duke last winter, is another storyline to follow this evening. But a year from now this community might be focused on Coffey who will have played three seasons for the Golden Gophers and is blessed to have both the height and skills that potentially translate to an NBA career.

“There is no question he could be a first rounder,” said a former Big Ten coach who asked that his name not be used. “I would say if he has a decent season (next winter) he could a mid-first round, or even lottery pick.”

The 6-foot-8 Coffey projects as either a small forward or shooting guard in the pros. His talent package includes athleticism, ball handling, passing, driving, shooting and defending. He is also an unselfish player who cares more about winning than his statistics.

Coffey, though, hasn’t weighed much more than 200 pounds during his Gopher career. He is working to become stronger. “My biggest concern (for Coffey to become better) is his physical strength, and ability to hit the three consistently,” the source said.

A shoulder injury in January caused Coffey to miss most of Minnesota’s Big Ten games during his sophomore season. His stats for all games last season included being second on the team in assists at 3.3 per game, and third in both scoring average and rebounding, 14 points and 4.1 rebounds. His three point field goal percentage was .368 and he made .475 percent of all his shots.

Coffey photo courtesy of Minnesota Athletic Communications

If Coffey had been healthy he might have experienced the kind of season that validated testing the pros’ interest in him entering the draft this spring. Next season he could certainly be the Gophers’ best player and most multiskilled individual. With point guard Nate Mason having graduated, the Gopher coaching staff could utilize Coffey as a point forward and playmaker.

In that role Coffey could distribute the ball to Minnesota’s best low post scorer, forward Jordan Murphy, or pass to one-on-one specialist Isaiah Washington, allowing Washington to slash to the basket, or shoot from the corner. Coffey could also drive with the ball and set up teammates, or choose to shoot either long range or closer to the basket.

“If he (Coffey) gets stronger and improves his shooting he could be a real surprise to people because he is smart and passes the ball extremely well,” the ex-coach said. “His whole thing is staying healthy and getting stronger.”

Murphy will be a senior next season and at 6-6 and 250-pounds is one of the better rebounders and low post scorers in college basketball. The authority quoted here said Murphy is “a hell of a college player,” but may not have enough variety of skills to be drafted or make an NBA roster as a free agent.

The former coach believes Murphy projects as a short power forward in the pros. Murphy probably lacks the quickness to play small forward and defend. His inconsistent outside shooting, ball handling and passing skills are causes for concern, too.

Murphy has been All-Big Ten at Minnesota and so, too, was Mason who won’t be drafted tonight by an NBA team. Mason could receive a free agent invite from one of the league’s 32 teams to play on a summer league team. Scouts likely see him as a player who at 6-foot-2 is undersized to play point guard and has more of a shoot first, pass second mentality.

As for Trent, he might be drafted in the first round or slip to the second. Nbadraft.net projected in its mock draft yesterday that Trent will be chosen at No. 28 in the first round by the Warriors.

The Warriors could be an ideal fit for the 6-foot-6 Trent who is an extraordinary outside shooter (he set a Duke freshman record for three pointers with 97). The NBA champion Warriors rely on the accurate three-point shooting of guard Klay Thompson to help balance their offense but Thompson becomes a free agent after next season. Whether the Warriors can or choose to give Thompson a rich deal is the subject of considerable speculation.

Do the Warriors think they could draft a cheaper version of Thompson in Trent, who might help them immediately or in a year or two? Trent’s NBA career could very much be tied to being employed by a team that needs outside shooting because he isn’t highly praised for his ball handling, passing and defense.

Trent seems similar to former Robbinsdale Cooper star Rashad Vaughn but he has to hope for a better career with the pros. Vaughn, about the same height and weight as Trent, was known for his long range shooting in 2015 when the Bucks selected him in the first round. Vaughn competed one season at UNLV, just as Trent played only his freshman year at Duke. Vaughn struggled to establish himself with the Bucks and other NBA teams, and is no longer in the league.

Nbadraft.net projected the Timberwolves will choose Oregon freshman shooting guard Troy Brown at No. 20. The website also predicted Minnesota will select another shooting guard in the second round, taking Kentucky freshman Hamidou Diallo at No. 48.

Tom Thibodeau said on WCCO Radio yesterday morning the Wolves aren’t committed to drafting for a specific position but he indicated interest in “wings”—the position Brown and Diallo can likely play. Asked about the possibility of a trade for the pick, the Wolves’ coach and president of basketball operations answered “absolutely.”

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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