Schwartz: 10 Sentences – The Luka Garza NBA Edition

April 12, 2020

Written by David Schwartz

Hawkeye Nation

Luka Garza announced last week his intentions to enter the NBA Draft, if they’ll have him. That got us thinking about Hawkeyes, the NBA, and what it will take re-establish Iowa as a consistent source of NBA-caliber players.

1. Just as Tyler Cook, Joe Wieskamp and others have done the last few seasons, Luka Garza last week made the smart decision to A) test the NBA draft waters, and B) do so in a way that allows him to return to the Hawkeyes if he gets the impression that leaving right now isn’t in his best interest.

2. It’s clear – beyond clear, if there is such a thing – that Garza has an NBA game, but what is less clear is what type of NBA game he has: an NBA game for 2020 or an NBA game for 2000, back when big men weren’t marginalized like they are today.

3. I’ve written about this before, especially when writing about Cook, so let’s not spend more than one sentence recapping, but it’s essential to point out that in 2020 a 6-foot-11 NBA player is not an asset, he’s just in the way unless he’s got elite passing skills and the ability to knock down three-pointers on at least 33 percent of his attempts.

4. We’re not discussing anything that Garza doesn’t already know; he works hard on his outside shot just as all tall college players hoping for an NBA career work on their outside shots.

5. It’s the same drill we went through last year with Cook – “Hey look, he’s really got outside range!” – and wouldn’t you know it, he worked hard to develop one and this past season navigated his way between an NBA roster and the developmental league; Tyler Cook made himself into an NBA player.

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6. So let’s pivot to what’s next, what this could mean for Garza, and what it could mean for a Hawkeye basketball program that has been barren of sustained NBA talent since Reggie Evans retired a half-decade ago, and before that there were Ricky Davis and Ryan Bowen, but it’s been two decades since they left Iowa City in the late 1990s.

7. It’s hard to say whether the NBA isn’t enamored with Hawkeye players, or whether Iowa doesn’t/can’t recruit the top-level, one-and-done talent that typically finds success in the NBA, or whether Iowa’s last two coaches have asked their players to do things that make them unattractive to the NBA, but whatever the reason it just hasn’t happened for Hawkeye players beyond a few games here and there.

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8. Devyn Marble tortured Big Ten defenses before playing parts of two seasons with the Orlando Magic, totaling 44 NBA games; Jarrod Uthoff also has played parts of two seasons, including the 2019-20 campaign with Memphis.

9. Now our hopes rest with Cook, a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers organization, and Garza, whose Hawkeye career may or may not be over depending on what the NBA decides to do with its camp and draft and also depending on whatever happens in the sports world because of COVID-19 (dang – thought I could get through a whole column without mentioning it).

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10. Frankly, I’m optimistic about Garza’s chances (not that I’m an NBA scout) because of the massive leap he made between his sophomore and junior seasons; massive improvements like that don’t just happen – they’re a result of work, desire, and genetics, which means whether Garza makes his NBA push in 2020 or 2021 is largely irrelevant since it appears to be just a matter of time.

* Talk to David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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