Leistikow: What to know as Peter Jok's NBA Draft night unfolds
For the fourth straight year, Fran McCaffery's Iowa basketball program sends a first-team all-Big Ten Conference performer into the NBA Draft.
For the fourth straight year, that player enters the Thursday-night, two-round spectacle (6 p.m., ESPN) with areas of upside and overall uncertainty.
This year, that guy is Peter Jok. The 6-foot-6, 202-pound sharpshooter could follow the professional path of his three all-Big Ten predecessors … or carve his own.
“I learned a lot from those three,” Jok said this week from Iowa City, where he’s been working out with former Hawkeye teammates Anthony Clemmons, Gabe Olaseni and Aaron White. “Everybody’s got different paths. I’m up for whatever, man.”
What happened with the three Hawkeyes before him:
Roy Devyn Marble, 2014
Then: Was a late second-round pick (No. 56 overall) and wound up playing parts of two seasons (44 games) with the Orlando Magic. He earned more than $1.7 million, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
Now: Out of the NBA; played last season in Italy and tore his ACL in April.
Aaron White, 2015
Then: Was a second-rounder with the Washington Wizards (No. 49). Played in Germany his first year and Russia his second; the Wizards maintain White's NBA rights.
Now: Recently signed his third overseas contract, worth six figures annually, this time in Lithuania with the prestigious EuroLeague.
Jarrod Uthoff, 2016
Then: Went undrafted, partly by choice, to maintain free-agent status. After two NBA Development League stops, Uthoff was signed three times by the Dallas Mavericks and played nine games.
Now: Is well-positioned to make the Mavs’ 2017-18 roster. Would make $1.3 million next season if the team picks up his option.
Of those three, Jok’s pre-draft plan seems to most resemble Uthoff’s. If a team won't guarantee him an NBA roster spot or certain compensation, he and agent Chris Emens will likely tell teams not to draft him.
Unlike first-rounders, NBA second-round picks aren’t guaranteed contracts. However, usually the top 10 or so second-round picks can command a rookie-level contract. One of Jok's best workouts was with the Magic, who have the 33rd and 35th overall selections.
“When you go the second round, if you’re not guaranteed money, it’s better to go undrafted,” the former West Des Moines Valley star said. “That’s where me and my agent are kind of leaning to. Once we get to that point where the money’s not guaranteed or unless I’m guaranteed a roster (spot), I’m going to try to go undrafted so I have more options.”
The preference for Jok, who lived in South Sudan and Uganda until he was 9, is to play his first year professionally in the U.S. That could mean, as was the case with Uthoff, starting out in the D-League.
But a new NBA classification could help his cause.
For the first time, the NBA will allow 17 players to be rostered — up from 15 — with two new “two-way contract” spots. A player must have less than three years of pro service to qualify. The goal is to keep younger players in the U.S. while giving NBA teams more time to develop them.
While NBA Gatorade League (formerly Development League) mainstays make between $20,000 and $26,000 a year, these two-way contract players would be paid between $75,000 and $275,000, depending on how much NBA time they get.
“I know I belong in the NBA,” Jok said. “If D-League’s the path, I’m going to go do the D-League and make it through there. Unless overseas gives me a really good contract and really good money, I’m staying here.”
Jok is ready and relaxed to learn what happens next. When I reached him Tuesday night, he was hanging out with friends. He's never been one to show much emotion or feel much pressure.
The best thing Jok has going for him: that sweet shooting stroke. Every basketball team at every level needs someone who can score. Jok's biggest question mark is his defense.
"There are a couple teams that really interested in me," Jok said.
He feels good, and he should: He's put in his work.
He’s as lean and healthy as ever. The shoulder and back ailments that slowed him during last year’s 19-15 Hawkeyes campaign are all clear.
Similar to Uthoff’s pre-draft agenda last year, Jok has been all over the country working out for scouts and general managers. The NBA Combine plus 13 team workouts are complete, the last being Friday with the Atlanta Hawks. (Uthoff squeezed in 16 team workouts.)
The last step is waiting.
“Right now, my mind is just chilling,” said Jok, who, after a morning workout in Iowa City on Thursday, will return to Des Moines to watch the draft. “I’m hanging out with my friends and family. Not trying to think about the draft. I’m just ready for whatever. If I don’t get picked, it is what it is. If I get picked, it is what it is.
“Everything happens for a reason. I’m going to let it happen in God’s hands. We’ll see.”
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 22 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.