Dedric Lawson didn’t know where he was when he woke up Wednesday in an oversized bed at the Kimpton Sawyer Hotel in downtown Sacramento with a deadline looming on a multimillion-dollar decision.
Lawson, a 6-foot-9 junior forward from Kansas, has traveled a lot while auditioning for the NBA Draft. Over the past two weeks, he participated in the draft combine in Chicago and visited other NBA cities such as Charlotte and New Orleans for pre-draft workouts. The evaluation process has been such a whirlwind he woke up before Wednesday’s workout with the Kings thinking he was in Los Angeles.
“I forgot I was in Sacramento because I’ve been training out in L.A.,” Lawson said. “I just thought I was in L.A. for a minute.”
The Kings looked at Lawson and five other NBA prospects during Wednesday’s workout at their practice facility inside Golden 1 Center. It was decision day for 175 college underclassmen who filed for early entry into this year’s draft, including Lawson, Minnesota guard Amir Coffey and Providence guard Alpha Diallo. They had until 11:59 p.m. ET to withdraw from the draft and return to school.
The Kings are looking for players to target in the second round with the 40th, 47th and 60th picks in the June 20 draft. Dozens of players have worked out in Sacramento over the past two weeks, most of them marginal talents who will go undrafted.
Lawson had already decided to stay in the draft, but others were wrestling with the decision just 12 hours before the deadline.
“I’m still thinking about it,” said Coffey, who worked out for six teams. “I have a couple of hours to make a decision so I’m going to get on the phone with my people, talk to a couple different people, and weigh the pros and cons of coming back or staying in. ... It’s a tough decision. I’m kind of half each way, so it’s going to be a tough decision.”
Diallo said he was still weighing his options but acknowledged he was “probably going back to school.”
“I haven’t really made my decision yet,” said Diallo, who participated in four workouts. “After this I’ll go talk to my family and my agent and we’ll talk about what’s the best decision for me going forward, but I am leaning toward going back.”
New NCAA rules allow underclassmen to enter the draft and hire an agent without forgoing the right to return to college. Players can accept benefits in the form of transportation, lodging and meals related to meetings or workouts with agents or NBA teams. Teams pay for airfare, lodge players at luxury hotels and make sure they eat well while they are in town for pre-draft workouts.
“They take care of us pretty well,” Lawson said. “They treat us like we’re already in the league.”
Players who choose to return to school have 10 days after the combine to withdraw.
“It’s a great process,” said Diallo, who has withdrawn from the draft. “They let you come out and test the waters, and basically you have a decision to go back and continue your education, so that’s big for me and my family – education – so I’ll be a senior and I’ll be getting my degree next year.”
Robert Franks did not have a decision to make. The 6-9 forward just completed his senior season at Washington State. Franks worked out for the Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns before visiting Sacramento.
“Traveling from state to state is not always the easiest, but it’s been something I’ve embraced and I’ve kind of accepted the challenge,” Franks said. “This is what the next level is about. It’s about traveling and playing city to city, so to me it’s been no problem.”
Coffey didn’t mind the process either. He might have liked traveling from one NBA city to another because he decided to remain in the draft, forgoing his final season at Minnesota.
“I look at it as an opportunity,” Coffey said. “This is what I want to do, whether it’s now or in the future, so we’re just going city to city and meeting all these new people and working out for people. It’s just new opportunities.”