Tim Miles held a press conference to introduce new assistant coach Armon Gates on Monday, but he also took a moment to provide an update on juniors James Palmer Jr. and Isaac Copeland who entered their names into the 2018 NBA Draft.
Neither Palmer nor Copeland received an invitation to the 2018 NBA Combine, held in Chicago May 16-20. However, both players do have team workouts scheduled as they continue to test the waters.
According to Miles, Palmer worked out for the Boston Celtics on Saturday and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday and will work out for the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday.
Copeland will visit the Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks next week and Nebraska has also taken calls from Cleveland and Houston among others.
“I was with Isaac and his family yesterday morning for breakfast after he graduated,” Miles said. “We had three graduates — congratulations to Evan [Taylor], Malcolm [Laws] and Isaac; that’s awesome to see those guys. But we had about an hour-and-a-half lunch and just walked them through the whole process really as an educational opportunity for them and what’s going on that way and that was good. Isaac wanted to get through graduation — he had his grandmother here, his family here; he wanted to get through graduation before he did anything so that’s why he’s a little bit later.
“We’ve kind of got this week here and we get into next week and the Combine hits us that Thursday, Friday, Saturday; they’re not going to do anything there. Then you’ve got until the 30th to withdraw.”
Because neither player has signed with an agent, both are eligible to return to college if they choose.
“It’s great,” Miles said about the opportunity for the players to gather information. “That’s why I call it ‘testing the waters,’ that’s why our press release said testing the waters. It’s a term that whether the NCAA or NBA has used that allowed players to go out and test the waters of the NBA. So just like anything else, you’re sticking your toes in the pool and seeing how favorable it is for you. So for these guys to get workouts against other elite-level talent, and then get the feedback and having whether it be Dany Ainge standing there watching your every move or whoever it might be I think really helps them. Usually what’s great is it’s really not very different from what we’re telling them. Sometimes it matters what you hear. I think it’s really good for both these guys.”
Sophomore Isaiah Roby did not declare for the draft, but Miles did submit his name along with the other two to the Undergraduate Advisory Committee to gather feedback on all three players.
“They all three had about the same type of thing, which is they could all potentially be third-round picks, could be second-round picks; if they go in the third, they’re not going far,” Miles said. “Isaiah’s just at home working out with his trainer and a lot of these guys are going to be at home doing workouts during the month of May and early June and then we’ll get them back for our June session.”
Neither Copeland nor Palmer’s names show up on the major mock drafts or big boards from writers who cover the draft. Miles offered his thoughts on their status.
“Everything’s 50-50 to me; yes or no, right?” Miles said. “I’d say it’s more likely they come back than they go. I will encourage them — I’ve kind of gotten to this standard where, it used to be just a first round pick — if you could go in the first round where it’s a guaranteed contract and it was a three-year deal like it was, that makes sense for the kid. That’s a real opportunity. Now with the two-way contracts, it might change a little bit. It might creep down into that.”
The two-way contract rule adds a couple of roster spots for the NBA teams and allows players to split their time between the NBA the G-League teams, which bumps up the value of the contract compared to a standard G-League one.
“What people have to remember is the two-way contract came into the NBA last year so all those two-way contracts got gobbled up; it’s not like they’re open every year,” Miles said. “While that seemed really attractive — ‘oh, I could get a two-way’ — well, there’s somebody in that contract right now and unless they’re going to waive or cut that player, you don’t have that opportunity. While that might have boosted the G-League for a little bit and the NBA rosters in the short-term, as time goes on that will be a very healthy thing for NBA teams and can help the G-League, too. But I don’t think these guys are fixated on playing in the G-League next year or anything like that. I think they really think that we can have a good basketball team if they come back but want to get all the information they can.”
Palmer was named a first-team All-Big Ten performer by the league’s coaches while Copeland was an honorable mention selection. If both players chose to return to Lincoln, the Huskers will get their four leading scorers back from a team that went 22-11 and 13-5 in the Big Ten.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.