The Charlotte Hornets have conducted workouts with 40 different prospects over the past few weeks and now all that is left to be determined is which player the team will select with the No. 22 pick on Thursday night.
While many of the players to get a workout with the Hornets are likely to be bound for Summer League and the D-League, a handful of prospects figure to be available and drafted in the range of picks where Charlotte will be waiting their turn. Among those players is Diamond Stone who spent his freshman year in the Big Ten playing alongside Melo Trimble for the Maryland Terrapins.
Stone was one of the top big man recruits as a prep, along with fellow Wisconsinite Henry Ellenson. At 6'10.5" and 256 lbs., the young center already has a body with NBA size. While Stone, hailing from Milwaukee, is projected as a late-first round or early-second round pick, the Rice Lake-native Ellenson is slotted in among the top 10 in this year's draft.
There are some reasons that Stone isn't a top-10 prospect, but there are also reasons why he is still projected within the first 30 or so picks.
Stone is, or rather was, a full-sized freshman. He had the physical size and strength to bully opposition in the post and out-muscle the average 19-year-old for rebounds.
He was able to work in face-up and back-to-the-basket situations with success and scored at a decent clip. Though he only average 22.5 minutes per game in his lone season at Maryland, he averaged 12.5 points per game. For a big man, he also shoots well from the free throw line, 76.1 percent in 2015-16.
Success from the line is probably thanks to his soft hands and ability to handle the ball well for a teenager at the center position. The combination of his frame and good hands can be an asset for him if he is able to draw contact and create opportunities.
Stone has great touch from inside and made a meal of scoring from up close in college. Not only does he have a good left hand to work with, but he can face up and knock down from close- or medium-range on the baseline.
In college, he was part of a successful pick-and-roll that averaged 1.23 points per possession. The roll worked well for Stone because it allowed him to get his momentum going downhill and he has good footwork to help keep him steady and headed in the right direction while the size and touch we mentioned earlier helped him get by smaller fives.
The downside for Stone is that most of the things that made him stand out at Maryland were the product of his advanced physical development, which is ahead of most teenagers and young adults. However, the NBA is, in the words of the Golden State Warriors, a "man's league."
Stone had a lot of success because he could overpower other college players, but he didn't fare quite so well against mature opposition. He will likely struggle against NBA size, speed and strength.
He might be able to compensate for some of his shortcomings more easily if he wasn't so limited in his explosiveness and having very little game above the rim. He doesn't get up for rebounds much, relying more on his size and positioning. On offense, he lumbers a bit to get up for dunks and on defense it hurts him when crashing the boards.
He can overcome most of this and still grow immensely before we see a finished product, but that is only if he is mentally checked-in. The one concern about players who have the raw skills and potential is that they aren't prepared to mentally focus on the game and improving.
Though he only played 22.5 minutes per contest for Maryland, he was not present and focused, letting rebounds and defensive coverages slip by him.
That cannot be attributed just to mental focus and effort. Stone truly is a center and doesn't have the ability or confidence to play outside of that role.
When asked about versatility of modern NBA bigs, Stone said, "Actually, you know, I have a good post game, and I can shoot the ball so pick-and-pop situations and low post scoring is where I see myself. And...being a defender in the league."
When free agency opens on July 1, Charlotte will have Cody Zeller and Spencer Hawes under contract. They will also likely enter negotiations with Al Jefferson, who was part of the Charlotte squad for several years. Given they have two players at the position and could conceivably go "small" by playing Frank Kaminsky there when trying to space the floor and run, the need to add a player like Stone is almost non-existent.
The one scenario where adding Stone might make some sense for the Hornets would be the departure of Jefferson. If Big Al is headed out of town, and he likely is, they will lack that bullying inside presence that can get them buckets on the block.
Even there, the Hornets might prefer to draft a different player or position and pass on Diamond. Despite his ability to score inside, he is a very poor passer, think Hassan Whiteside-type assist numbers, and had a turnover rate of nearly 20 percent out of post-up situations in college. It's hard to imagine Charlotte using their first-round pick on Stone, though he might make an attractive option on something in the second round if available.