While there’s a growing belief Hamidou Diallo will remain in the NBA Draft, not everyone thinks it’s a foregone conclusion.
SEC Country’s Kyle Tucker reports his UK source says Diallo’s decision is a 50-50 call. This would be a glimmer of hope for the Kentucky Wildcats’ hopes of having Diallo back next season, which could be the difference between this being a Final Four contender and the national championship favorite.
However, that was before Diallo worked out with the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, and it sounds like that went better than expected. There, Diallo told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he’s going all-in with his decision to test the NBA waters, which could lead to him making the jump without logging a single college minute.
"Throughout the whole process I knew this door could possibly open, and once it opened, I had to go all for it and put both feet in," Diallo said.
The Bucks have shown a lot of interest in Diallo, and it helps that they have a UK connection. John Calipari has ties to Bucks vice president of player personnel Dave Babcock, which could help sway them to spend the 17th overall pick on Diallo.
"It's very crucial, and I'm sure with a guy like that who still hasn't determined whether he'll stay in the draft or if he'll go back to school right now," said Bucks vice president of scouting Billy McKinney. "For us to get him in this early was pretty significant for us.
"Our vice president of player personnel Dave Babcock has a good relationship with (Kentucky head coach) John Calipari. They worked together when Calipari was the head coach of the New Jersey Nets. Whenever there's a Kentucky player that we need to look at there's always an opportunity for us to get them in."
How interested the Bucks truly are in Diallo remains a mystery, but having the Calipari connection should help solve it. If they’ll spend that high of a pick on Diallo, Calipari will tell him to go without hesitation.
But if the Bucks won’t spend that selection on Diallo, Calipari may tell Diallo to return to school, at least depending on what the other teams in that range of Round 1 may do. Either way, this connection could help all parties figure out how strongly Diallo is in contention for that pick.
"(He's) just a crazy athlete right now," said McKinney, who said the Bucks have also watched Diallo play in international competition. This past summer, Diallo competed with the Team USA U18 national team that won the FIBA tournament.
When asked at the NBA Draft Combine about which range should Diallo settle for in order to leave school, Calipari said, “It would have to be in the first round and probably 21, 22, something like that.”
However, Calipari did allude to the potential to be a first-round pick as something hard for Diallo to pass on.
“He has a chance of being drafted and doing all this stuff,” said Calipari at the combine. “That’s what we’re supposed to be doing. People are mad, ‘He didn’t play!’ This is what this is for. And if at the end of the day, if someone going to draft him in the first round, 21, 25, lottery pick, it’s hard for me to tell him to come back.”
It’s possible Diallo has been using this process as a means to find out what he’d need to do in order to be a lottery pick next year, but even he probably didn’t expect to have interest from teams drafting in the 16-27 range of this draft. He’s worked out for the Chicago Bulls (16th pick), and he’ll work out for the Nets (22nd and 27th picks) on Thursday.
While Diallo may have thought he could be a lottery pick in 2018, he won’t pass on a chance to be drafted in the 16-22 range this year. The real uncertainty is going to be whether or not he’s satisfied with being a late first-round pick to a team like the rebuilding Nets.