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Kentucky Basketball: NBA personnel weigh in on Jarred Vanderbilt and PJ Washington

You’ll be surprised what they think about Jarred Vanderbilt.

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-South Regional Practice Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 NBA Draft is two months away, but college prospects have just one more month before they must decide to remain in the draft or return to school.

The Kentucky Wildcats have three such players, though only two are legitimate NBA prospects. Wenyen Gabriel has a chance to make it in the NBA someday, but for now, he’s likely looking at an overseas stint if he wants to go pro this year.

The same may not be true for PJ Washington and Jarred Vanderbilt, who are at least on the radars of NBA personnel.

Michael Scotto of The Athletic spoke with eight NBA personnel that were either GMs, scouts or executives. Their takes on Vanderbilt and Washington proved to be very interesting, especially in regards to Vanderbilt.

Of the eight personnel, four thought Vanderbilt should actually stay in the draft, and one was undecided.

Why is that?

“Vanderbilt can make plays with the ball,” an executive said. “You had to see Jarred in high school to appreciate his skill set. He didn’t get a chance to show it at Kentucky. He likes facilitating.”

At 6-9, 214 pounds, Vanderbilt is the perfect size for an NBA forward, and he has the athleticism for that role, plus added rebounding and passing ability to impact a game in a variety of ways.

While his offense is a major work in progress, he could probably find an immediate role with a team if he’s surrounded by scorers that help offset his deficiency there.

Still, there’s no one in this draft that could benefit from another year in college than Vanderbilt. If he stays in the draft, he’ll be lucky to be a late second-round pick. But if he returns and has a productive, healthy sophomore season, he’ll likely be a first-round pick in a much weaker 2019 draft, possibly even a lottery pick.

But while that may be true, this report from The Athletic shows that Vanderbilt’s decision may prove to be a little tougher than expected.

Another thing that was interesting about this report was how much higher the NBA personnel were on Vanderbilt than Washington, who’s actually projected as a top 40-50 prospect, depending on which big board you read.

However, Washington’s lack of size and ability to do anything great makes him a hard player to project in the pros.

“I think he’s a little undersized,” an executive said. “That’s the problem. He’s not a three. He’s a four. He scores around the basket. Maybe he should go back to school and develop his schools as a stretch four or three skills.”

Six of the eight NBA personnel said he should return to school, while one was undecided. That’s pretty much the consensus opinion on Washington right now, even if he’s leaning toward staying in the draft.

One thing is for sure: There’s no long a certainty that even one of Gabriel, Washington and Vanderbilt are back next season. For now, however, I’m still guessing two of them will return.

Who do you think stays and goes?