NBA draft expert thinks Iowa's Jarrod Uthoff could be first-rounder

Chad Leistikow

In less than a week, it’s possible Jarrod Uthoff will become the first Iowa basketball player in 18 years to be taken in the NBA Draft’s first round.

ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford on Friday put the 6-foot-10 former Hawkeye all-American in a list of college seniors who “could end up cracking the first round” in Thursday’s two-round, 60-pick draft.

The first round is a very important cutoff for prospects. Anyone taken in the first 30 picks is guaranteed a two-year NBA contract; anyone taken in the last 30 is guaranteed nothing. However, early second-rounders usually end up signing NBA deals, too.

Ideally for Uthoff, the former Cedar Rapids Jefferson star by way of Marengo, he breaks into the first round. The 30th pick of the draft is locked in with a total salary of $1,996,500 over two years, with team options for another two years.

“I think he starts in the 20s. There’s teams like the (Indiana) Pacers, for example, that have liked him for a long time,” Ford said of the franchise that owns the draft’s 20th pick. “They see him as a good fit for what they do. I don’t think it’s likely he gets drafted there, but if he went that high it wouldn’t shock me. He’s got several more spots in the 20s.

“He’s a guy who I think once he gets to the 30s, he doesn’t get out of the 30s.”

Uthoff has an upcoming workout scheduled with the Los Angeles Clippers, who have the 25th and 33rd picks. He’s worked out for the Philadelphia 76ers, who own the 24th and 26th picks. His very first pre-draft workout was with the San Antonio Spurs, who select 29th.

Iowa's Jarrod Uthoff led the Hawkeyes to first-round NCAA Tournament wins in each of the past two years, including in March against Temple.

Uthoff’s agent, Adam Pensack, told The Des Moines Register that his client’s age (23.1 years) works against him. On average, only one 23-year-old annually gets taken in the NBA Draft’s first round.

“That’s a big hurdle to overcome, but he’s good enough that he’s able to overcome it, I believe, at least somewhat,” Pensack said. “He’s never going to be the No. 1 pick. But he has impressed teams that have picks in the 20s.

"I think Jarrod is a first-round talent. I think there are teams out there that believe he is a first-round talent."

This past season, Uthoff became Iowa’s first consensus all-American since Chuck Darling in 1952. He has a unique skill set that allowed him to become just the second Big Ten Conference player in the last two decades to record 150-plus blocks and 125 3-pointers in a career.

As a senior, Uthoff ranked second in the Big Ten in scoring (18.9 points) and first in blocked shots (2.6).

“One thing that I think is appealing for him is his ability to guard other perimeter-oriented forwards in the league,” Ford said, “because of his ability to move laterally and get out on the floor.”

Ford noted two areas that will bring NBA teams pause when evaluating Uthoff. One, he needs to add more weight (he measured 214 pounds at the NBA Draft Combine in May, but Pensack said he’s up to 220 now). Two, Ford said Uthoff lacked consistency.

“He would be dominant in stretches (at Iowa) -- and I mean dominant in stretches -- and then other times he would just completely disappear,” Ford said. “We actually saw that in the Draft Combine, too. There were spurts where Uthoff looked great, and then you wouldn’t even know he was on the court again for five-, six-, seven-minute stretches at a time.”

The last Hawkeye to be taken in the first round was Ricky Davis with the 21st pick in 1998.