For a talented college player, it never hurts to test out the NBA Draft waters without hiring an agent, leaving available the option to return to school if they information they receive isn't to their liking. PJ Washington, the University of Kentucky's No. 3 scorer last season, has joined the fray, and he's asking for a big guarantee before he takes the big NBA plunge. He said yesterday that if he wasn't projected as a lock for the first round, he would return to school for his sophomore year.
PJ Washington says he wants a first round guarantee to stay in the draft. If he gets second round guarantee he's coming back to UK. pic.twitter.com/vbhvwPz7TY— Lee K. Howard (@HowardWKYT) May 17, 2018
Washington was the first of three Wildcats to declare for the draft without hiring an agent, followed by Wenyen Gabriel and and Jarred Vanderbilt. If all three were to return to UK, they would form the nucleus of a compelling NCAA Tournament competitor ready to avenge a disappointing Sweet 16 loss to Kansas State last season.
Washington claims that he wants to make an honest and independent decision, and that he will only stay in the draft if first-round status felt guaranteed.
The Dallas native is surely making his mark in the meantime, posting a double-double in only 19 minutes of play during the five-on-five portion of the NBA Combine.
ESPN currently ranks Washington as the No. 51 draft prospect this year, but currently projects him to be the 18th pick in the first round of the 2019 draft. Washington certainly stands to move up the ranks with one more year at Kentucky, though his Combine performance is impressing scouts so far.
NBA combine Day 1 standouts: Kevin Huerter, Donte DiVincenzo, Jacob Evans, Svi Mykhailiuk, Melvin Frazier, Josh Okogie, Jaylen Hands, Sagaba Konate, PJ Washington, Alize Johnson— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) May 17, 2018
Disappointments: Rawle Alkins, Devonte' Graham, Shake Milton, Tyus Battle, Brandon McCoy
During his freshman season, Washington averaged 10.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists. In the loss to Kansas State in the NCAA Tournament, he lead the team with 18 points and a career-high 15 rebounds, his third double-double of the season. A main area of improvement comes at the free-throw line, where he shot only 60.6 percent during the season.
Washington could be on his way to becoming a seriously compelling pro prospect. If late momentum continues to build and he officially opts for the NBA, expect major disappointment from Big Blue Nation.