Hey folks! I hope you're enjoying your Tuesday evening. While we all wait to hear the decisions of P.J. Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt and Wenyen Gabriel, I thought I'd post some late night rumblings and what I would do if I were in their shoes.
The good news is we are within 26 hours of final decisions. The bad news is we may actually have to wait until close to midnight tomorrow.
Here a few thoughts on Washington, Vanderbilt and Gabriel:
I'm still in the dark and that seems to be the case for just about everyone on the beat. I can say with some certainty that as I'm typing this that no UK player has currently signed with an agent as of Tuesday. That may come as a no surprise as that information could easily be leaked if it happened, but it still shows that the three are leaving every possibility of a return on the table. That doesn't mean all three are returning to UK, but it also means as of tonight none are officially out the door.
While I think that UK's staff knows what the players will do (Matt Jones disagreed with me on KSR this morning), they have given them all the time in the world to be able to weigh every single aspect of their decision. Hell, and maybe one of the three will have a change of heart different than what UK's staff expects. I know it can be frustrating for fans to have to wait and see what happens, but if UK's staff isn't annoyed by the wait then we should probably be patient, too.
In my opinion all decisions have (likely) been made but I did have a person that has gone through this in the past tell me that it only takes one phone call for your decision to change. Hamidou Diallo told reporters last year he changed his mind a few times leading up to his late night decision. I do think the fact this is going down to the wire is normally a good thing if you want these kids to return to UK. All three won't return, but I'd be surprised if all three left.
I won't pretend to know any of these kid's injury, family or financial situations, but I get asked all the time what I would do if I were in their shoes. I've talked about it on radio but I'll write it here (remember, this is just my opinion):
I honestly think Washington could return to UK and become a top 20 pick in 2018-2019. Most of the time I use end of season momentum to dictate what I think a player can become the following season. In Washington's last 12 games he finished with double-digit scoring in 11 of those games. During that stretch he averaged 13 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. A bucket and a rebound extra per game (based on his season average) may not seem like a lot, but Washington was UK's ONLY post presence last season. It was one of John Calipari's worst three-point shooting teams, too.
If Washington surrounds himself with shooters and has a little help on the block I think you see him shine. If the Cats make a Final Four run and Washington is the heart and soul of the team then you would see him locked in as a first round pick. With no first round guarantee in 2018 and mostly likely not a top 10 pick in the second round I think Washington should return.
We don't know his injury status and that makes things so difficult. I can only imagine what Vanderbilt and his family are thinking. This is a major decision for every player lucky enough to make it, but the stakes seem highest for Vanderbilt.
He can return, hopefully stay healthy and show everyone he's worthy of a first round pick.
He can return, risk getting injured again and have no NBA team trust him to stay healthy if that happens, possibly making him a four -year player at UK.
He can go pro, maybe get drafted, and trust an NBA team to be patient with his recovery all while being paid (amount unknown).
He can go pro, maybe get drafted and possibly have an NBA team realize he's not worth the time, leaving him to climb a ladder up the G-League or give up on his NBA dream entirely and play overseas.
It's a tough decision. He knows UK will be patient and give him the treatment/time he needs, but he also knows he won't be getting paid during those treatments with no guarantees he will ever be paid. He also knows that NBA teams may be interested, but can find another player similar to him that won't have major injury concerns.
I wouldn't blame Vanderbilt one bit if he decided he needed to try and start getting some money.
Again, I don't know anyone's financial or family situation but with Gabriel being so close to graduating I think coming back to UK would be beneficial. Gabriel could thrive being a shoot-first forward, the way he was used towards the end of last season. UK won't need Gabriel to be an elite rebounder next season. He also will be able to guard people more his size, which won't make him such a liability defensively. His draft stock will improve.
I doubt an extra year means Gabriel gets drafted, but if Josh Harrellson can get drafted than Gabriel can, too. But even if he's not drafted he could put himself in a great position with a G-League team, similar to Derek Willis.
I know playing time will be a factor for Gabriel, but if one of Washington/Vanderbilt leaves then he should stay.