Wenyen Gabriel announced on Wednesday afternoon that he will be declaring for the NBA draft but will not be signing with an agent at this time.
The 6-foot-10 Kentucky forward never quite lived up to his potential coming out of high school as a McDonald’s All-American. As a sophomore, he averaged 6.8 points and 5.4 boards while shooting 39.6 percent from three in just over 23 minutes as a reserve for the Wildcats during his sophomore season.
Gabriel is the fifth Wildcat to declare for the draft off of last season’s team. Hamidou Diallo, Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will all be signing with an agent, while P.J. Washington and Gabriel will be testing the waters, as of now. Kentucky also lost Sacha Killeya-Jones to a transfer.
“My dream has always been to play professionally,” Gabriel said in a news release announcing the decision. “After talking with Coach Cal and the staff, they believe it’s in my best interest to see where I stand in the eyes of the NBA. I’m confident I can play at the next level, but I want to be absolutely certain that this is the right decision for me at this time. I know that I have the opportunity to return to school and that I will have the full support of the coaching staff and the Big Blue Nation. No matter what happens, I love this university and all the opportunities it’s been able to provide me.”
If Gabriel were to return to school, he would be the only player on the Kentucky roster that would be an upperclassmen, but he would once against be fighting with, potentially, Jarred Vanderbilt, Washington, Nick Richards and E.J. Montgomery for frontcourt minutes.
If he remains in the draft, however, there is a good chance that he will end up going undrafted. Gabriel has range on his jumper and the kind of length that makes him an intriguing small-ball option, but he’s not a great shot-blocker, he’s not a great rebounder, he’s not a great perimeter defender. Being tall and capable of making perimeter shots is a good thing, but if you can’t bring something else to the table — the ability to protect the rim, the ability to switch onto smaller defenders, etc. — there’s a limit to what your value is in a league that is as good as the NBA is.
I would recommend that Gabriel return to school, but even then, I’m not convinced there’s a real chance that Gabriel will be able to improve his stock all that much.