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Will Diamond Stone’s Game Translate to NBA?

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Maryland landed a formidable frontcourt pillar in Milwaukee native Diamond Stone, but the 6’11” bruiser may not be around for long. If NBA scouts and executives like what they see from the Terrapins freshman, he could bolt for the Association as a mid-first round or lottery pick in June.

Stone brings a 255-pound frame and robust two-way potential as a center prospect. He carved up high school competition and impressed during international competitions, but there’s no guarantee he’ll shine as bright in college or beyond.

The NBA’s small-ball revolution has decreased the volume of successful big men in the league. However, there’s still lofty value attached to centers who can adapt skillfully or show enough mobility to play in today’s uptempo, spacing-oriented style.

Does Stone have the chops to become a top-tier anchor? How will his game translate to the pro level?

Offense Outlook

While his game is far from refined in many areas, Stone can hurt opposing defenses in several different ways.

In the half court, he has a promising post-up game that includes strong moves over either shoulder. Stone sets up his buckets with solid footwork and finishes with a nice touch around the rim. He should also be a dependable pick-and-roll target in the NBA because he moves his feet well and shows great receiver coordination:

Andrew Ford of Upside & Motor detailed Stone’s budding interior impact:

In the post, Stone is able to utilize his size to seal his man deep, and it’s over for the defense once that happens. There is a lot of skill accompanying Stone’s size, too. His footwork with his back to the basket is impressive for a player his age…

Another substantial aspect of Stone’s productivity is on the offensive glass. His wide frame, bouncy footwork and 7’3.5″ wingspan enable him to beat opponents to the ball both horizontally and vertically. As noted by DraftExpress.com’s Mike Schmitz, Stone gobbled up 15.1 rebounds (including 5.8 offensive boards) per 40 minutes during the 2014 FIBA U-17 tournament.

Stone’s half-court game is also supplemented by a developing jumper. He rarely strays past the elbow to shoot, but the mechanics, high release and confidence all suggest he’ll connect capably and add range moving forward. In addition, Stone has offered some glimpses of hope as a passer, although he doesn’t seem to have top-tier vision or instincts.

It’s great that he owns those promising big-man traits, but what about uptempo sequences? Throughout high school, Stone showed he’s plenty agile to keep up with nearly any center on any given play, and he can outrun many of them. However, he occasionally takes plays off or coasts a bit, which is partially due to conditioning. Stone talked about the issue with DraftExpress.com:

I think that I kind of…one moment, I’ll be active, and one moment I’ll just take a play off. I just got to keep being active. I think that once I get my body right, get in shape more, I’ll be a threat.

If he upgrades his fitness at Maryland and demonstrates that he can play end-to-end for extended minutes, he’ll be a highly attractive frontcourt commodity.

Defense Outlook

Stone’s defense is a mixed bag. In addition to the aforementioned conditioning and motor questions, Stone has yet to regularly exhibit sound footwork or discipline as a low-post stopper. On the flip side, he’s intermittently flashed encouraging potential thanks to his strength, nimbleness and expansive reach.

Like many other physically imposing youngsters, Stone relied a bit too much on his size in high school. Therefore, he didn’t cultivate the best positional movements, was overzealous on pump fakes and didn’t always diagnose plays correctly.

Mark Turgeon has noticed the shortcomings and noted that Stone has been working hard to sharpen his fundamentals in College Park (per Roman Stubbs of the Washington Post):

Obviously with Diamond, he’s terrific on the offensive end…It’s the other end that he has to come the furthest, the defensive end, so he’s really working hard on that and watching a lot of film. Listening to guys, watching guys.

The good news is that when Stone is assertive and moving efficiently, he’s a disruptive force, thanks to his physical tools. Even though he’s not a tremendous leaper, he’s bouncy enough and his wingspan effectively contests and alters shots. Stone is quick enough to cover ground as a help defender, and he’s strong and long enough to stymie attackers one-on-one in the post.

The point is that there’s tangible potential for Stone to be a quality defender at the next level. If he doesn’t become a satisfactory stopper, it won’t be because he’s physically incapable or lacks the talent.

Draft Outlook

While Stone is an interior-oriented scorer who’s not a top-shelf athlete, he still has the tools to be a high-impact performer in tomorrow’s sleek NBA.

Not only can he run the floor and finish with agility, he’ll be a solid mid-range shooter to keep opponents honest. And while Stone’s defense is far from polished, he offers upside as a fleet-footed pick-and-roll stopper and rim protector.

His ceiling ultimately hinges on his possession-by-possession intensity. Stone’s inconsistent motor isn’t a massive red flag right now, but it’s an area scouts will closely monitor while he’s at Maryland.

If Stone can play an active brand of basketball every night, he’ll tempt several scouts to scoop him up late in the lottery. Stone’s best-case value is that high because he could be a double-double player who can play end-to-end. If his energy isn’t constant, however, he could slip into the 20s on draft night. Either way, he’s a must-watch big man in the 2016 draft class.

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