During this past weekend, we posted a piece discussing how the increased amount of underclassmen staying in the NBA Draft pool showed the growth of the G League and its potential. The main point behind the hypothesis dealt with how the recent introduction of two-ways and Exhibit 10 deals alongside the progression of G League contracts made some of these underclassmen more comfortable going pro than they might’ve had in past years.
An example of that type of prospect is former Minnesota forward Amir Coffey, who decided last week to forgo his senior season to enter the NBA Draft. The 6’8 player closed his college career by putting up 16.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists on 44% from the field and 30% from beyond the arc on 3.7 attempts per game. Those numbers were good enough to push the Big 10 to name him to their All-Conference Third Team.
Despite his solid play and accolades, Coffey isn’t a likely candidate to get selected in the NBA Draft. In fact, you’ll have to look at some of the top-100 big boards that are currently available just to see his name brought up. Currently, he’s positioned 85th on Sam Vecenie’s (The Athletic) list and 84th on Jeremy Woo’s (Sports Illustrated) big board. In addition to the extremely similar rankings, the one thing that both experts brought up is how the Minnesota alum stands as a potential two-way prospect.
For Coffey, an understanding that there’s a chance of him getting snagged on a two-way or Exhibit 10 deal makes his decision to turn pro make sense. Sure, he’s likely not going to get drafted, but those two options would allow him to immediately make some decent money while being able to grow his game in the G League by playing against solid competition on a nightly basis.
When it comes to being on a two-way deal, there’s always a chance that you’ll get a shot to prove yourself at the NBA level if the team you’re signed to is dealing with injuries. On the other end, playing on an Exhibit 10 deal will allow you to make up to $50,000 in bonus money from the NBA squad that you spent training camp while also earning $35,000 for the year from the G League.
While time in the G League will improve his bank account, another benefit lies behind him progressing on some of the weaknesses that will probably push Coffey to go undrafted. In terms of his stock as a prospect, his biggest weakness deals with his struggles as a perimeter. During his three-year stint at Minnesota, he shot 33% from beyond the arc on a total of 287 perimeter shot attempts. That overall shooting percentage deteriorated during his swan song where Coffey shot a career-low 30% from long-range.
That inconsistency likely had something to do with Coffey’s strange shooting stroke that has a pretty low release point. While he seems somewhat comfortable getting those shots off, whether he’s working catch-and-shoot or off-the-dribble, the release is definitely questionable. For one, it has a pretty low release point as the shot starts right at his forehead, which gives the shot a lower arc once it leaves his hands.
If Coffey gets signed to a two-way deal and spends much of his rookie year in the G League, he’ll definitely be in luck and have a great opportunity to improve that jumper. As a two-way prospect, he’ll spend the off-season and training camp getting a chance to work 1-on-1 with that team’s shooting coach, who will Coffey advice on what he’s doing wrong and step-by-step methods to improve that jumper. Once preseason ends, the Minnesota alum will still be in luck as the G League is the perfect area to refine any skill, especially a jumper, as a lot of the team’s offenses are based around perimeter shooting.
While he’ll need to refine his shooting stroke, Coffey still has the tools that would allow him to be a solid player from the moment he enters the G League. That deals with him standing as a quick and athletic 6’8 forward that can motor down the court in transition (on or off-ball), work in the half-court and be an extremely effective facilitator for a player his size.
Working on-ball, Coffey looks extremely comfortable as he can use side or gather steps to maneuver around any opponent that may be in his way. On the flip side, Coffey’s quickness and hops allows him to be an effective lob threat whenever he’s running with a teammate.
Moving onto his work as a half-court driver, the 22-year-old forward definitely shows a lot of promise. He’s incredibly smart when it comes to utilizing off-ball screens and change of speed moves to work around that initial perimeter defender. Once he gets into the paint, the Minnesota alum is definitely solid as he can finish with either hand. While he has shown an ability to finish in traffic, Coffey’s skinnier 205 pound frame could give him problems at the next level as he tries to drive into stronger G League bigs or forwards.
Last but not least, Coffey shows real potential to be a solid point forward at the pro level. Some of that promise is shown by him averaging 3.1 assists per game as a junior, which placed him first among Big 10 power forwards. When you watch film of him working, that solid average definitely makes sense as Coffey looks really comfortable whether he’s working with the roll man or through drive and kick.
On the perimeter, Coffey shows patience with waiting for his pick-and-roll partner to get in the proper position before he slings a pass to the big. Meanwhile, he likes to utilize those aforementioned dribble moves to enter the paint before throwing a precise pass to either a player staying on the perimeter or working on the other end of the paint. An example of that skill is seen in the clip below as he drives to the paint and into a Northwestern big before throwing a superb crosscourt pass to Dupree McBrayer, who nails the corner three.
Like a lot of underclassmen that decided to remain in the draft pool rather than go back to college, Coffey will probably look to the G League as a way to start their pro career after receiving a two-way or Exhibit 10 contract. While it probably isn’t the perfect destination that the forward hoped for when he first picked up a basketball, it’s probably the perfect spot for him.
The perimeter-oriented league will be a great place for him to refine his flawed jumper. In addition to improving in one of his weaknesses, Coffey can shine as a dynamic point forward that can be an effective facilitator while being able to drive to the paint in either half-court or transition.
So while the start of his pro career might initially be looked at as a tough, uphill battle, the NBA G League will be a tremendous path for Amir Coffey in the upcoming 2019-20 season.