Jakob Poeltl. Will he stay or will he go? We all know Delon Wright is leaving the Utah Utes–he has simply run out of eligibility. But, weren’t we sitting at this crossroads last year with Wright? And didn’t he make the right decision to stay?
Of course Wright did. The Utes made it back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in years. Ute Nation was overjoyed. People actually watched basketball games at the Huntsman Center for the first time in who knows how long. Utah beat Wichita State. UNLV. UCLA. And nearly upset Duke.
Everything was great. But, there’s that Catch-22 when you’re playing great and you have great players that things can and will change. There is that lure of the NBA Draft Lottery calling, that sound of cash registers clinking with a turbo charged, finely tuned engine of a brand new Lambo revving in your driveway.
Jakob Poeltl, this could all be yours–IF you go to the NBA. Of course doing so right now would go against the wishes of your head coach at Utah, one Larry Krystkowiak, who shared with the press and the world his nuggets of wisdom on Thurs. April 16.
“To me, it’s not a question, and I have shared this with Jakob, as to whether or not if he is going to be presented with becoming an NBA player and having an opportunity to be in that league,” the coach said. “But I think it’s really important that you are ready for it when you get there. Jakob is only scratching the surface and that’s why he s such a premium to NBA teams. They’re, willing to pay him some money and try to develop him, and my argument, and it’s not an argument, it’s a fact, I feel like he can develop better here, under our tutelage and being in this environment. He really likes college, him and his teammates love each other and you only get this opportunity once.”
And so for Coach K, the answer is quite simple. The opportunity for Poeltl to play in the NBA is not going away anytime soon, and so K can be Poeltl’s Mr. Miyagi. Only Krystkowiak can teach Poeltl-San to wax on and wax off and develop a crane technique to kick around those Cobra Kai jerks and karate chop the basketballs out of the hands of those Kentuckys and other one and dones.
But on the flip side, the opportunity to be a lottery pick may not be there at this time next year, and that’s something for Poeltl and his people to consider. For example, Sports Illustrated has Poeltl going No. 15 in its latest NBA Mock Draft to Atlanta–on the cusp of the NBA Draft Lottery.
Wright is currently set to be drafted No. 30 according to SI–a draft spot that probably would have been a lot higher last season had the Los Angeles native and Bob Cousy Award winner opted to leave school early. That’s a lot to think about if you’re Poeltl, because the difference between No. 15 and No. 30 in monetary compensation is literally $1 million per season.
Get into the top 10 and it’s another million. Get into the top 5, the most vaunted territory for draft picks, and you’re talking anywhere from two to four million more.
If you’re counting at home, Poeltl is barely out of lottery consideration right now at No. 15–with a combine and other workouts to come should he decide to go early. Draft XPress actually has him smack dab in lotto land at No. 11. Of course, some mock drafts are saying he’ll be lucky to be picked in the 20s. In other words, the timing might be right from a financial perspective for Poeltl to leave right now–or it could be a labyrinth of alleyways filled with big, bad Johnnys with wicked crane techniques.
There is never a guarantee that your career will turn out the way you hope. Injuries can change your fortunes in a heartbeat–as can the fact that you simply won’t play to your potential the next go-round. So hang on to your Under Armour hats, Ute Nation, because even Coach K doesn’t know which way his Austrian youngster will go here.
“I feel deep down inside that it can be a win-win for our program to keep him around. He can be one of the best players in the country next year without a doubt and talking about a top 10 pick and have another year of college experience,” said Krystkowiak, who believes the Utes can build around Poeltl and be just as dangerous next season. “He’s piecing it all together now and talking to a lot of people. We are in a holding pattern right now and we’ll see what happens.”