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CHICAGO — Peter Jok’s buzzword on the first day of group competition at the NBA Draft Combine was “defense.”
Whether or not he’s improved enough on that end is the most obvious question, and one he’ll need to definitively answer if the former Iowa sharpshooter is going to find an NBA home.
That was the feedback Jok got last year when he tested the NBA Draft waters. It followed him through his senior season for the Hawkeyes, and has been the point on which scouts, general managers and coaches have asked most.
“I can come in and be a knockdown shooter, be a 3-point shooter,” Jok said. “If I show teams I can defend, I can be at the next level. … That’s the one thing that’s come out of every team I’ve met so far. My main focus here is to show that I can defend.
“I need to keep getting better at that so I can be a two-way player and stick.”
Jok saw the floor for nearly 23 minutes in Thursday’s opening exhibition game at the Quest Multisport Complex in Chicago, finished 0 of 6 from the field — 0 of 3 from 3-point range — with one rebound, one steal and two turnovers.
He had some self-described “lapses” on defense, but added, “most of the time I felt like I was active,” and “trying to get after guys.”
While he might not have shown the best version of himself on both ends in the five-on-five portion of the action Thursday, it’s generally accepted that the team portion is hard to gauge, given the players’ lack of cohesion in playing with one another.
Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery was in the bleachers watching Jok, and said he thought the shots Jok took “were all good shots; they’re shots we all know he can make.” McCaffery echoed pretty much every other coach or expert at the Combine in saying the live portion isn’t as important from a statistical perspective given Jok has a large body of work off which to draw. His 19.9 points per game in his senior season and 41.3 percent career shooting mark are plenty of evidence to support his offensive prowess.
What’s most important — as Jok and every other player pointed out — are the interviews and testing players go through.
“I think, all in all, this entire experience will be good for him because he’s had a ton of interviews and he’ll do really well in those,” McCaffery said. “They’ll realize not only is there depth to his personality and to his character, but he’s also really intelligent. That’s important.”
Jok said he’s spoken with and worked out for several teams, though he couldn’t remember all of them as he sat with media after he was finished for the day. He did say he has a workout coming with the Boston Celtics on Tuesday, and mentioned the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic as teams he’s spoken with.
Jok said he’s “trying to get as much as I can out of meeting with teams,” for that foot in the door.
There’s a lot on his side in terms of making a team, as long as teams deem he’s improved enough defensively. McCaffery cited recent stats from the NBA playoffs where some games approach 70 attempted 3-pointers.
It’s an era of the league in which shooters are a wanted commodity, and McCaffery said Thursday as long as Jok’s character shows through in the interviews, he’s set up to be valuable for a team because of that.
“The game has changed,” McCaffery said. “There are certain things they’re looking for and obviously he’s one of the best shooters I’ve ever had. They know he can stretch the floor and they know that the extra distance isn’t a factor for him.
“(NBA teams are) going to be very sophisticated with their offensive schemes, their defensive schemes and you have to process it quickly and keep doing it 82 times. That’s a different animal. What they’ll figure out is he’ll be good at that.”
Even if defense was the buzzword on the first full day of the Combine, and even if it’s a major factor in what happens for the NBA Draft and beyond, his meal ticket will remain the same — and he knows it.
Jok said the NBA style very well could suit him just fine. Keeping his strengths in mind and not trying to be something he isn’t — both on the court and in interviews — is the idea for the remainder of the Combine and in workouts that come.
“I feel like my game is going to translate to the NBA better than college because there’s so much spacing,” Jok said. “My basketball potential hasn’t peaked yet. I’ve still got a lot to learn and a lot of room to get better.
“One piece of advice I got from Denzel Valentine was to be yourself, be confident; don’t try to do too much, just be who you are and things will work out. I’m not trying to do too much at all; just show what I can do. I’m trying to keep it simple.”
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