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Diamond Stone – 6’10” Center, University of Maryland, 19 years old
If NBA teams relied solely on on-court production to inform their decisions on draft picks, then Diamond Stone could enter Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on June 23 feeling carefree. After all, he’s a 19-year-old big man with some exceptional skills.
But when teams invest millions of dollars in a young person not yet old enough to buy a beer, it becomes increasingly important to make sure that he can handle the day-to-day life of being an adult. This is where Stone could have difficulties.
Along with numerous other potential lottery picks, Stone opted not to take part in the 5-on-5 scrimmages held during last week’s NBA Combine in Chicago. That is nothing to frown at. However, he did put plenty of effort into interviewing with teams, assuring them that missteps during his lone season at Maryland weren’t signs of ongoing maturity issues. He was suspended for a game in February after shoving Wisconsin forward Vitto Brown’s head into the floor. There have also been questions raised about his work ethic and consistency.
But along with those questions, Stone still brings quite a bit to the table for any team in need of a young post player. He played just one year for the Terrapins, averaging 12.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in just over 22 minutes per game, and was named the Associate Press Newcomer of the Year in the Big Ten. His team finished the season 27-9 and 12-6 in conference play, good for a four-way tie for third place. In March, Maryland advanced to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament before losing to Kansas.
The 6-foot-10, 255-pound Stone will be chosen largely based on his array of developed talents, which are considerable, along with his size. He plays like a more traditional big man, with good footwork and post moves that he can use to get around defenders consistently. Like a lot of traditional centers of years past, he also has exceptional strength and can simply plow through defenders. His development as a center is also unusual in today’s NBA, as his post game is much more complete than a lot of the more raw one-and-done players that are usually picked high. When he gets fouled, he can be relied on to make teams pay from the free throw line; he shot 80 percent on free throws at Maryland. One of his biggest strengths could wind up being his potential to become a great defender down the road. Already an average rebounder, Stone has a 7-foot-3 wingspan and can force opponents to alter their shots in the paint, or extend out to help stifle pick-and-roll plays.
Stone is one of the more finished products in this year’s draft, which could be useful to a team looking for immediate production. But there could be lingering issues with his work ethic. During his lone college season, he became known for lackluster practice habits, and he went through stretches of games where he appeared disinterested. He isn’t known to be a great athlete, so anyone expecting him to run the floor like a gazelle and glide over defenders to score will be disappointed. As a 6’10” center, he will give up size to a lot of opponents who have taller, longer players at the same position. Because he lacks speed, he may have issues defending opposing bigs who drift out of the paint and can shoot. Given that he is only 19, his maturity and ability to handle the lifestyle of a professional athlete could be questioned.
Stone’s size, already-developed post moves and nice shooting touch outside of the paint will combine to make him valuable to the team that picks him, almost right away. On a rebuilding team, he could start right away, while he would likely be a reserve on a contender. He also has enough upside to garner interest, as he has room to grow as a defender and rebounder. He has lottery potential, and was one of 17 players who received an invite to attend the draft in Brooklyn. He has been spending time in Florida working on his conditioning in preparation for his jump to the pro level. He is expected to be selected anywhere from 15th to 33rd, which would knock him out of the first round. Teams that could immediately use post help, especially offensively, include Boston, Phoenix, New Orleans, Chicago and Indiana. If Atlanta allows Al Horford to sign elsewhere this summer, then Stone could be a fit there with the No. 21 pick.
NBA Player Comparison – Numerous parallels have already been drawn to Stone, many of whom are ground-bound, bruising centers. Among them are the more offensive-minded Al Jefferson of Charlotte, two-way throwback Zach Randolph from Memphis, and the defensive-oriented Kendrick Perkins of New Orleans. Denver’s Nikola Jokic was also a name thrown around. In one year of college play, Stone has shown flashes of each of those players at times.
Keep a look out for Diamond Stone on draft night, and be sure to keep yourself updated with our complete coverage of the 2016 NBA Draft.