It’s looking more and more like Hamidou Diallo will be a first-round pick if he remains in the NBA Draft.
Sam Vecenie of The Sporting News told Cats Pause that Diallo's draft stock, while difficult to project, will be high enough to warrant a first-round selection come June.
"His (Diallo) range is late lottery all the way to second round. Obviously, that's a wide range and something he'll have to nail down, but with these high school kids, it's a new phenomenon," Vecenie said. "I think I'm higher on him than some people are just in terms of opinions among NBA executives that I've talked to.
"I will say, personally, I do not think he will get to the second round. I think he would go in the first round, maybe in the 20s, and the reason I say that is it only takes one team to like him and he's a high-upside player."
So now Diallo has an interesting choice. Does he remain in the 2017 NBA Draft — where scouts I’ve spoken with suggest he’s likely to be selected in the 20s? Or does he play next season at Kentucky and then enter a weaker 2018 NBA Draft — where he could be a lottery pick?
There are pros and cons to both options.
It remains unclear what he'll do.
But, for now, I'm projecting Diallo to remain in the 2017 NBA Draft and go 24th to the Jazz. He would add athleticism to a backcourt that doesn't have much of it. And he could develop into a star who plays next to Gordon Hayward for many years to come.
Diallo is a 6-5 shooting guard who is an explosive athlete with good skills. He would probably be a lottery talent in next year's draft. So if you can get him now in the 20s, why not?
Diallo declared for the draft in order to see how high his stock is, and if it’s enough that he should leave for the NBA after not playing a single college game. That may rub some the wrong way, but if an NBA team is willing to pay someone first-round money, they should probably take it.
If Diallo returns to UK, he could be a top-10 pick in the 2018 draft, but he would have to wait another year before he hits free agency, which would come around the year 2022.
If he leaves this year, Diallo will be one year closer to a potential big payday in free agency, which could make up for the money he’d lose by not being a top-10 pick in 2018 vs being picked in the 20s this year.
We’ll learn a lot about Diallo’s stock and what he should do at next week’s NBA Draft Combine, where he’ll reportedly do testing and 5-on-5 competition. Right now, I’m guessing Diallo does well and gets assured he’ll be a first-round pick, which leads to him remaining in the draft.