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Potential lottery pick Jakob Poeltl forgoing NBA draft to stay at Utah

Duke v Utah

HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 27: Justise Winslow #12 of the Duke Blue Devils goes to the basket as Jakob Poeltl #42 and Chris Reyes #20 of the Utah Utes defend during a South Regional Semifinal game of the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at NRG Stadium on March 27, 2015 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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Jakob Poeltl, a native Austrian, worked his way up NBA draft boards while playing his at Utah this season.

The 7-foot freshman +center has impressed with his athleticism, moving well for his 235-pound frame, blocking shots and hitting the glass hard. But there are concerns about his strength.

However, in Utah’s NCAA tournament matchup with Duke, Poeltl looked strong enough while limiting Jahlil Okafor, a potential No. 1 pick with a powerful interior offensive game. That performance seemed as if it could lift Poeltl from the wider range of “middle of the first round” to “late lottery.”

But Poeltl isn’t striking while the iron is hot.

Jeff Goodman of ESPN:

Poeltl is probably the highest-rated prospect to turn down the draft this year, which on the whole, isn’t so bad for NBA teams. Many years, better prospects stay in school or overseas.

And Poeltl probably isn’t ready to contribute in the NBA. His offense needs refining, and one game doesn’t erase all concerns about his strength.

Still, an NBA team would have happily paid Poeltl millions over at least two guaranteed seasons to develop on its watch. Instead, he’ll accept a year of lost wages to stay at Utah, where scouts will view him under more scrutiny.

If he’s happier in that environment and/or moves up draft boards next year, good for him. But he’s taking a risk, one bigger than many prospects declaring for the draft.