As the 2016 NBA Draft draws closer and the memories of Dwight Howard and the dreadful 2015-16 season begin to fade, my fellow writers have begun to ponder what Daryl Morey and the Houston Rockets are going to do with the 37th and 43rd picks respectively.
They have thrown out names such as fellow Maryland alumni in Jake Layman and Robert Carter Jr., both of whom I am high on, but would both be completely lost in the Rockets' rotation. There is a chance that another Maryland player, Diamond Stone, could fall to the Rockets at 37. He is projected as a late first round pick, so the Rockets may have to compile a package to trade up for him.
With the removal of Howard from the equation there is an opening for a starter at the center position with the Rockets. Clint Capela is currently slated to go into that slot and he could ultimately be in the best fit for Mike D’Antoni’s system in Houston, but Stone might be a prospect that is way too good to pass up in a draft that may not produce a single All-Star appearance.
Coming into his freshman season at Maryland, Stone was a unanimous top 10 pick. As the season went on he fell and fell and fell and fell. This was happening despite his play getting better and not a single player in all of college basketball really standing out as the best player in the country.
He only measures at 6’9" barefoot and is said to be undersized for the position. He’s actually not that undersized though, since 14 of 30 NBA centers are actually under seven feet tall and Stone is just as tall as three starters. Stone does make up for his "below average" height with above average wingspan at 7’3" and strength.
His strength is to not be underestimated at all. During games against Purdue this season, he faced multiple double teams against the monstrous frontline of A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas, both taller than seven feet and a combined weight of nearly 600 pounds. Stone manhandled them for rebounds and shouldered them away for position on the block to get a shot off. Stone is a beast and is not afraid. That is something that is hard to teach.
Another aspect of Stone’s game not able to be tracked on the stat sheet is his quickness. Experts say he’s slow, but they need to go back to the tape and watch his switches against Indiana on the perimeter. Against most big men in the Big 10, Yogi Ferrell was able to get to the basket at will. Not Stone, though. Stone is deceptively mobile and agile for a guy his size. He was able to stay in front of Ferrell and many other guards throughout the season.
Stone isn’t polished and may never make an All-Star game, but he can evolve into a very good player in the league. He’s not a liability on the line (75% FT last season) and he is a raw player that improves every time he steps on the court.
I was originally going to say package the picks and move out of the draft completely, but with Howard moving on and no guarantee of getting a starter in free agency, Diamond Stone is probably the best option for the Rockets in the 2016 NBA draft.
Check his Draft Express Profile.