It is one thing for the University of Utah to have one of its two best players declare for the NBA Draft, as Both Gach announced he would do on April 6. It is quite another for the Utes to have both of their best players go through the draft process this spring.
The deadline for early-entrants to declare for the June 25 draft came late Sunday evening. On Tuesday evening, the NBA, as it always does in the days after the deadline, released a list of early-entry candidates. This year’s list included 163 underclassmen and 42 international players.
Gach was among the 163 underclassmen, but so too was Utah sophomore wing Timmy Allen, an All-Pac-12 second-team selection last season after averaging 17.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists for the 16-15 Utes.
One source told The Salt Lake Tribune Tuesday evening that Allen decided on Saturday, one day before the declaration deadline, that he would test the draft waters. The late decision would seem to indicate that Allen did not arrive at this hastily or recklessly, but rather prudently.
Furthermore, Allen’s old AAU team, Southern California-based, adidas-backed Compton Magic, is run by Etop Udo-Ema, who remains part of Allen’s inner circle and with whom Utes head coach Larry Krystkowiak and his staff have had a productive relationship through the years. Udo-Ema, among the most-influential grassroots power brokers on the West Coast, is not sending Allen through the draft process unless he believes it could be of some benefit to the Mesa, Ariz. native.
“I don’t see it for him now, but he’s a good player in the Pac-12 with good instincts that is, at times, an excellent perimeter defender,” one NBA scout told The Salt Lake Tribune late Tuesday night. “He is capable of making some money down the road as a professional.”
Unlike a generation ago, declaring for the NBA Draft does not necessarily mean a prospect is hellbent on leaving school for the NBA. Yes, some prospects leave with NBA plans and no intention of returning to school. Nowadays, many others declare so they can go through and learn the process, take feedback from NBA personnel and return to school knowing what decision-makers believe they need to work on for future consideration.
Multiple sources have indicated to The Tribune that Allen’s intention is the latter, to go through the draft process, communicate with NBA personnel and come away with helpful insight before returning to Utah for his junior season. If that sounds simple enough, it actually isn’t given the uncertainty of the draft process amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under normal circumstances, NBA teams would be allowed to conduct private workouts, in-person interviews and in-house medical evaluations of prospects. Thanks to social-distancing guidelines, all of those things, including the NBA Draft Combine next month, are currently out the window. For now, NBA teams are reportedly only allowed to conduct virtual interviews with draft prospects, which are limited to a total of four hours with any single player.
The potential ramifications for Utah were already numerous with Gach going through the draft process. Allen submitting his name only multiplies them.
The deadline for a prospect to withdraw his name from draft consideration and retain NCAA eligibility is June 3. If the draft gets moved back from June 25 due to COVID-19, and by extension, the NBA’s desire to resume the 2019-20 season, the draft, in theory, may not take place until August or even September.
In that scenario, some semblance of a regular pre-draft process could happen. Depending on what the league comes up with for deadline dates with a pushed-back draft, that could benefit Gach and Allen, but would be a detriment for Utah. For as long as Gach and Allen keep their names in the draft, the Utes’ roster will remain in flux.
With them, Utah is at the NCAA maximum of 13 scholarships for 2020-21, and could challenge in the top half of the Pac-12. Without one, or even both of them, Krystkowiak could hit the transfer portal, potentially for immediate help via graduate transfers.
However this shakes out, any sort of real clarity on Allen, Gach, and Utah’s roster is likely at least five weeks away, potentially longer if COVID-19 has anything to say about it.