Just over three weeks ago, John Calipari said on his radio show he expects “just about” every player on the 2017-18 Kentucky basketball squad to test the NBA draft waters.
“My expectation would be that just about every one of them will put their name in the draft to figure out where that committee sees them going,” he said. “If you’re not draftable, that means you’re not going to the combine, which kind of helps you make the decision, unless you absolutely want to go one way or another.”
He followed it up by saying the NBA combine invitations will be a big indicator of draft stock, as if you fail to earn an invite, you almost certainly won’t get drafted and it may be in your best interest to return to school.
“A first rounder or early second rounder, you get invited to the combine,” Calipari said. “So that’s where you’ve got to be. If you can’t make the combine, you’re more than likely not being drafted or if you do get drafted, you’re barely getting drafted, which means a season in the G-League if the team chooses to put you in camp.”
And what happened? Just about every Wildcat will be putting their name in the draft to receive feedback from NBA teams.
And that is perfectly fine. Encouraged, even.
Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Hamidou Diallo made decisions to enter the draft and sign with an agent. All expected.
When PJ Washington put his name in the draft without an agent, fans weren’t necessarily surprised, but they found it odd he was the first to jump the gun on a decision. When Wenyen Gabriel announced he would join Washington, most of the fan base understood the sophomore’s financial situation at home and applauded his decision to leave the door open for a return.
Today, Jarred Vanderbilt followed suit by putting his name in the draft without an agent, and (some, not all of) the Big Blue Nation blew a gasket.
Here are just a few of the comments left on KSR earlier when the news was announced:
“Jarred- Ok NBA am I a lottery pick? NBA: who are you?”
“Great news! No offensive game, my grandmother has more skill around the rim! Less equals more folks, got rid of him and Hami aka Archie Goodwin! This is great news! Don’t need him eating up valuable minutes ala WCS.”
“This makes zero sense considering he is injured and apparently having surgery.”
“All of these guys declaring for the draft is so ridiculous that it has become comedic.”
“I can’t run but I can push and pull myself up and down the court like you wouldn’t believe. So do I get my million??”
And here is why that mindset is ridiculous.
For starters, Washington, Gabriel, and Vanderbilt are not alone as fringe guys to put their name in.
As of last night, there were 108 underclassmen who entered the draft without an agent. Today, Vanderbilt, Kansas’ Udoka Azubuike, Michigan’s Charles Matthews, South Dakota State’s Mike Daum, Syracuse’s Tyus Battle, and Kent State’s Jaylin Walker pushed that total to 114.
And that doesn’t include seniors and players that have already signed/plan to sign with an agent like Knox, Gilgeous-Alexander, and Diallo. That total is reportedly over 175 players.
I’m no math major, but with only 60 total draft selections each year, there will be a whole lot of players that will have to put their professional dreams on hold and withdraw in the coming weeks. And I think a lot of them realize that going into it.
To start every year, John Calipari hosts a Pro Day for NBA scouts to come in and evaluate the talent on the Kentucky roster, and no one complains. It was a genius idea from the start, as scouts could see players before and after they played a full season of college basketball and the development they saw in that time. This is no more than an in-depth extension of that.
By putting their name in the draft without an agent, they are able to personally work out for teams, scrimmage with/against other top draft prospects, interview, pick NBA brains, etc.
For a guy like Jarred Vanderbilt, who is rumored (unconfirmed) to need surgery in the near future, it’s not just about going in and working out. If he can’t work out due to injury concerns, he can still talk with teams about the pros and cons of his game, evaluate film, and discuss what exactly he needs to work on to get to the next level. The average fan knows he’s limited offensively, but teams can give specific tips on how to take the next step up and prepare for next season in college basketball, and ultimately, the 2019 NBA Draft.
It’d be stupid not to take free advice from the guys that could be potentially writing his paychecks for the next several years in the NBA. Same goes for Washington and Gabriel, who both have several obvious kinks to work out in their respective games.
In fact, Quade Green and Nick Richards have yet to submit their names in the NBA Draft, and the deadline is Sunday night. We’ve heard transfer rumors with Green and there are reports Richards has already decided to return for his sophomore season, but I’d argue it’d be silly for them to not give it a go. Hell, Jemarl Baker, Brad Calipari, and Jonny David should give it a whirl. What does it matter? Again, it’s free advice from the professionals with no danger of losing college eligibility. That’s why the rule was put in place to begin with.
Only 60 players are invited to the NBA Combine each season, and that’s not even including a load of overseas players that are high on draft boards and don’t make their way over for the event. As Calipari said a few weeks ago, if you don’t get an invite, your chances of being drafted drop dramatically, and it’s likely neither Vanderbilt nor Gabriel receive an invite, with Washington being right on the fringe. I’d predict he is the lone Wildcat to earn a spot.
Could Washington, Vanderbilt, and/or Gabriel put on a show in front of scouts during workouts/interviews and work their way onto draft boards? It’s possible, but doubtful. Could a team make a draft guarantee throughout this process? I guess, but extremely unlikely. If any of the Wildcats to not sign with an agent go through the process and still feel the need to keep their name in the draft, it’s understandable if fans want to complain about their decisions then. But now, there is no reason to judge any player for giving it a go.
May 30 is the final day for players to withdraw from the draft, which is 40 days from now. The interview and workout process starts on Tuesday, so there will be a whole lot of time for the Wildcats to learn from the best in the business.
It’s inconvenient for fans to wait another six weeks, but it’s not about us. It’s their professional futures.
Take a deep breath. We still have a whole lot of time before we decide whether the sky is falling or not.