As the NBA Combine begins today, the biggest storyline of the event is the mystery surrounding UK freshman guard Hamidou Diallo.
Diallo opted to not participate in five-on-five competition, only going through measurements and individual workouts for teams. He posted the highest wingspan of any guard at the event at 6’11, and in the vertical testing, he reportedly forced the Combine staff to raise the bar (literally) because he jumped so high (44.5” vertical.)
After today’s testing, he told reporters “I wouldn’t mind going back to the University of Kentucky… I 100% have both doors open.”
Things are up in the air right now, but don’t sweat it.
Here’s why you shouldn’t worry about Diallo’s decision:
NBA scouts and executives think he needs to come back to school
Though it was expected Diallo would dominate in measurements and testing at the NBA Combine, apparently both scouts and league executives thinks it would be in his best interest to come back to school.
In an interview with SEC Country’s Kyle Tucker, NBA scouts were pretty critical on Diallo and the uncertainty that surrounds his game.
Here are just a few quotes from the article found here:
“He’s a crap shoot,” another scout said. “I don’t know how you pick him. He’s got to come into a workout and really dazzle you, and then maybe you pick him in the middle to bottom of the second round. But there’s just not enough of a sample size to make a good, educated decision on him.”
“Can I say he’s a sure-fire NBA player? No way.”
“Right now, he’s a D-League player,” said one scout, “but someone who is so interesting as a prospect that, if you have multiple first-round picks or an early second, he would be great to invest in. It just comes down to the right team having to come through – someone with a D-League team, the perfect situation, maybe a playoff team that can let him develop – otherwise, it’s probably in his best interest to come back and work on his shooting and get bigger and stronger.”
According to Jeff Goodman and ESPN, at least one executive believes Diallo’s lack of feel for the game and inability to make shots will push him back to Kentucky next season.
He enrolled at the semester break last year but didn’t play for the Wildcats. Diallo is a big-time athlete, but the knock on him is his feel for the game and ability to make shots from the perimeter. “He’s a freak athlete but has so much to learn,” one NBA executive said. Another wondered whether it might not be advantageous to leave now, for fear of being exposed at the college level.
Range: Early second round
NBA says: Back to school
In the same Goodman article, another executive had similar concerns in Diallo’s current abilities.
“To me, you would think Kentucky would kind of want him to play in a sense, if they want him back, because the knock on him from NBA guys that saw him in practice, they said he doesn’t have great feel. Great athlete, doesn’t have great feel yet.”
When asked by reporters, Coach Cal said he wouldn’t push Diallo to come back if he was a lock for the first round.
“If someone is going to draft [Diallo] in the first round, it’s hard for me to tell him to come back,” Calipari said. “That’s what this is for.”
Calipari was optimistic, however, there was a chance Diallo returned to school. When asked what it would take for the Kentucky freshman to stay in the draft, he responded, “It would have to be in the first round: 20, 21, 22.”
It just takes one team, but the criticism has to be taken as good news for fans wanting to see Diallo return to Kentucky.
The big reason Kentucky fans were worried about Diallo’s potential departure fell in the scoring department. Diallo was/is expected to be UK’s primary scorer next season, and when he opted for the Draft, many felt the Wildcats wouldn’t have enough weapons to put points on the board.
With Knox now committed to Kentucky, the Wildcats have a go-to scorer, giving fans a massive sigh of relief.
Knox has the potential to put up over 20 points a game at UK, giving the Cats a Justin Jackson-esque mismatch nightmare for opposing teams. When it looked like the 6’9 forward was headed elsewhere combined with the unknown factor surrounding Diallo, the Cats had a big fat question mark at the shooting guard position.
Should Diallo return, a backcourt of Quade Green, Diallo, and Knox will be one of the most dominant in the nation, giving the Wildcats a unique combination of scoring, shooting, and athleticism. Throw versatile forwards PJ Washington and Jarred Vanderbilt in the mix, and UK has a surplus of weapons next year.
If Diallo stays in the draft, there are a few other scoring options available, but Knox’s addition answers that big scoring question and makes life so much easier for next year. Knox can slide in at the SG position with Vanderbilt at SF and Washington at PF, and we’re talking about the biggest team in America.
We’d certainly love to see Diallo return, but his decision isn’t make or break for the Wildcats anymore with Knox in fold.
Cameron Johnson is still an option
At the NBA Combine today, Coach Cal was asked about the 2017 recruiting class, to which he responded, “We’re not done yet.”
We all know Mohamed Bamba is the prized recruit still on the table, but Pittsburgh transfer Cameron Johnson comes in at No. 2 on the priority list for the Wildcats.
If Diallo comes back, Pittsburgh transfer Cameron Johnson heads elsewhere and Kentucky is left with one of the most athletic players in the country. If Diallo leaves, Johnson is an extremely likely option for the Wildcats.
After taking a look at Kentucky and Arizona, he has a list of visits scheduled, with UCLA being the most recent and his trip to Oregon beginning today. He says he is in no hurry to make a decision, waiting for the dust to settle on some of the NBA decisions set to be finalized in the coming weeks.
You’ve seen the numbers on the site several times. 42% from three, 6’8 with great length, two years of eligibility left, etc. He’s a perfect fit for Kentucky if Diallo decides it’s in his best interest to stay in the draft.
Besides, can you imagine what a starting lineup would look like with two 6’8-6’9 scorers starting at the wings? Knox is already mismatch hell for opposing defenses. Add in another guy like Johnson? Woah baby.
The ideal situation is for Diallo to return, but UK has a backup plan that would provide a massive impact as well. It’s a win-win for all parties involved.
We have John Calipari.
When all else fails, rely on the guy that has taken the Wildcats to four Final Fours, two title games, and one championship in eight years with a bunch of freshmen.
When there are question marks on the horizon, Calipari somehow always manages to give us the best answers of all.
That is all.