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Hamidou Diallo among biggest NBA Draft decisions left to be made

And a nugget from ESPN suggests Diallo needs to return to Kentucky.

FloSports: FloHoops City of Palms Basketball Classic- Tournament Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

It’s looking like Hamidou Diallo won’t make an NBA Draft decision until closer to Wednesday’s deadline to withdraw from the draft.

Seeing Diallo not making a decision until that late suggests he’s become torn about whether to chase his NBA dream, or opt to be part of a Kentucky Wildcats team that has the potential to be special.

This Kentucky team is already loaded with talent, but Diallo would easily be one of, if not the best player on the team if he returns. He could be the difference between Kentucky being a title contender vs a team that could struggle to make it past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

That’s why what Diallo does is one of NBC Sports’ biggest impending NBA decisions.

5. Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky

Projected: Late first round, early second round

If he stays in: Kentucky has a ridiculous amount of talent joining the program next season, enough that John Calipari will likely have the pieces to make another push for an SEC title and a trip to the Final Four without him. At this point, he is really the only five-star off-guard on the roster, and losing him means the Wildcats may take a hit on the defensive end, but that would also allow some better shooters to get on the floor, so it may end up being a wash.

If he returns: Kentucky suddenly looks like a team that is going to be as good as anyone on the defensive end. Between Diallo, Jarred Vanderbilt, Kevin Knox, Nick Richards and, potentially, Mo Bamba, there is as much length and athleticism on that roster as Coach Cal has ever had. Where their points come from will be the question, and this may be what gets Diallo to stay in the draft. He may be the most explosive athlete in the draft, but he’s also very raw. He’s not a shooter and he doesn’t have a great feel for the game. There’s a line of thinking that, if he returns to a team that doesn’t have myriad options offensively, he could end up being exposed on that end of the floor.

CBT says: I think it would be in Diallo’s best interest to return — remember, he redshirted the second semester of last season after enrolling in January — but I would not be shocked to see him remain in the draft.

Most have assumed Diallo would ultimately stay in the draft, mostly because he was gaining a ton of steam as a potential first-round pick. However, not every key NBA decision-maker thinks Diallo is worth such a pick, and it sounds like there’s a decent chance he wouldn’t go in Round 1, according to ESPN’s Chad Ford.

Hamidou Diallo, SG, Fr, Kentucky*

Diallo enrolled in Kentucky this winter and practiced with the team, but never suited up for the Wildcats. He was widely regarded as a top-15 high school prospect thanks to elite athleticism, a strong motor and an aggressive offensive game based on attacking basket. His jump shot is the biggest question mark for scouts. He'd likely be a late-lottery to mid-first-round pick in 2018 after playing at Kentucky next season. If he stays in this draft, he'll get looks in the late first round and would be a likely second-round pick.

The latest mock draft from Jonathan Givony of Draft Express and the Vertical also has Diallo not making the first round, so perhaps NBA teams really do view him as a second-round prospect.

If that’s the case, Diallo should decide to return to Kentucky. There’s no reason to enter a strong draft class and risk being a second-round pick that doesn’t get a guaranteed contract, especially when next year’s draft is weaker, making it easier for Diallo to go in Round 1 and get a guaranteed contract.

I think there’s now a decent chance Diallo returns to Kentucky if no NBA team promises Diallo they’ll take him in Round 1. Problem is, teams like the Nets and Lakers have multiple first-round picks, some of which coming in the latter part of Round 1 (29th for Lakers; 22nd and 27th for Nets).

For what it’s worth, Jerry Tipton of the Lexington Herald-Leader did a great piece on why Diallo’s great showing at the NBA Combine — specifically his vertical jump — doesn’t mean a high NBA Draft pick success will follow.

Of the nine other players who recorded the 10 highest vertical leaps measured in NBA Combine history, none became lottery picks. Two were first-round picks. Four were taken in the second round and three went undrafted.

I still think there’s a very good chance Diallo would hear his name called in Round 1 if he remains in the draft, but it’s certainly not the foregone conclusion many have assumed it would be. Maybe that uncertainty ultimately sways Diallo to remain in college for one more season.

I wouldn’t count on it, but at least there’s a glimmer of hope.