The current day NBA is moving towards a small ball approach with mobile big men who have the ability to step away from the basket and make outside shots. The classic back-to-the-basket big man is seemingly a thing of the past, but when a 6-11 prospect with solid offensive abilities presents itself to the NBA GM's, there will always be a space open on a roster.
Maryland center Diamond Stone entered his freshman campaign in College Park with high expectations. Viewed by some as the missing piece to an already talented nucleus of talent, Stone teamed up with forwards Robert Carter Jr. and Jake Layman to form one of the most physically imposing frontcourts in all of college basketball. Stone rotated his time in the starting lineup with junior big man Damonte Dodd, but ended up in the starting lineup after a dominant showing against Penn State, where he tallied 39 points off the bench. The Milwaukee, WI native finished second on the team in points per game (12.5) and second on the team in rebounds per game (5.4).
Stone doesn't exactly fit the mold of the desired current day center in the NBA, but his ability to score around the basket and step out and knock down the outside shot on occasion has him listed in the first round in mock drafts.
Stone's offensive upside is one of the main facets of his game that has him listed by many as a projected first round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Stone found himself scoring primarily on the low block with his back to the basket, but showed flashes of a jump shot that extends comfortably towards the free throw line - Stone also has the ability to knock down shots from the perimeter, but don't expect that at the next level. His footwork and physical profile could allow him to be a solid low post scorer in time.
With a physical profile - 6'11", 255 pounds - Stone's size is something that is always in demand in the professional ranks. With the tenacity of a UFC fighter on the low block at times, it appeared as if Stone was simply overpowering his opponents and getting baskets and rebounds at will. There are some questions about his foot speed and lateral mobility, but there is always room for a guy of his size.
For as big as he is, his foot speed is a concern when it comes to defending pick and roll sets at the next level. Stone frequently fell victim to incorrectly defending the pick and roll which in turned became a focal point on how to exploit Maryland's big, physical frontline. With pick and roll offenses becoming more of the norm in the NBA, it will be pivotal for Stone to improve his lateral mobility if he doesn't want to be exploited as frequently as he was in College Park in 2015-16.
Stone entered his freshman year at Maryland with a bit of a body makeover in need which maked his conditioning a bit of a question. Maryland's Director of Basketball Performance Kyle Tarp did an outstanding job at reshaping Stone's body and turning him into a formidable college player, but his conditioning will still need work when entering the professional ranks. Maryland didn't compete at an up and down pace on a regular basis which played into Stone's strengths, but things will change in a fast-paced NBA setting.
There is a solid chance Stone ends up in the first round in June's draft thanks to his offensive capabilities on the low block, a developing outside shot and a physical profile that can position himself for easy baskets and rebounds. The style of play in College Park was not what it will be in the NBA, which could force Stone to spend more time developing his conditioning before becoming an integral part of a franchise. The potential for Stone is there. If he continues to develop his body and work on his lateral mobility, there is a chance for Stone to be a long-term NBA contributor.