Back in the fall of 2015, Maryland center Diamond Stone was looked at as one of the better bigs in that year’s draft class. From the moment that he stepped foot, Stone seemed destined to be a star due to standing as an elite 5-star prospect in high school while also being 3rd overall in a DraftExpress mock. That grand amount of appeal was due to him as a big 6’10, 250 pound big that can use his body to attack the glass while also being able to run the court.
Unlike most elite freshmen that immediately get major minutes from the jump, Stone had to compete for playing time with junior big Damonte Dodd. So rather than getting pushed into that starting lineup, Stone would have to grind for playing time. Although Stone definitely had rough patches during his freshman season, which included an extremely unfortunate situation against Wisconsin, he still had a pretty solid season.
In only 22.6 minutes per game, Stone put up 12.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks with a 61% True Shooting Percentage. That solid production pushed him to be named to the Big Ten’s All-Freshman Team and the All-Big Ten Third Team. Like most freshman that put up that type of production, Stone decided to declare for the NBA Draft after only one year at Maryland.
Stone probably entered with the idea that he would get selected in the 1st round with the possibility of maybe being a lottery pick. At the time that he declared on April 11th, 2016, DraftExpress had Stone listed at 23rd overall in their mock draft. Although that was definitely a demotion from where he was at during preseason, it was still a relatively solid position for the young player. That spot actually deteriorated once we reached mid-May as Stone was moved into the early 1st round with the 33rd pick. Unfortunately, that position wouldn’t changed as we moved closer to the NBA Draft as Stone was selected by the Los Angeles Clippers with the 40th overall pick.
Technically, that selection obviously made him a part of the NBA as a member of the Clippers. However, he wouldn’t have an opportunity to even get on the court with a team due to a variety of factors. For one, the team already had Maresse Speights and DeAndre Jordan at center. Alongside that, Doc Rivers has basically been allergic to utilizing rookie talent since he started out with the Orlando Magic in 1999-00. Over the course of the 82 game season, Stone only played a grand total of 24 minutes.
Although he was unable to get any meaningful playing time on the NBA level, Stone did shine in some occasional G League stints. Due to the Clippers not having their own affiliate at that time, they needed to utilize the “flex affiliate rule” when they called him down. That mean that Stone spent some time with both the Santa Cruz Warriors and Salt Lake City Stars. In a combined 13 games with those two teams, Stone definitely shined as he put up 16.1 points, 7 rebounds and .9 blocks per game on 49% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc on 2 perimeter attempts per game.
However, that G League success didn’t lead to him potentially climbing up the Clippers depth chart as the team made an early July move that sent him and Jamal Crawford to the Atlanta Hawks in a three-team deal that featured the Nuggets where they received Denver forward Danilo Gallinari.
Fortunately for Stone, this move coincided with the Las Vegas Summer League which meant that he’d get an immediate opportunity to play alongside some of his new Hawks teammates. That chance definitely paid off for him as he put up 9 points and 3.5 rebounds on 54% from the field in only 15 minutes per game.
Just three weeks after the conclusion of Summer League, Stone was waived by the Hawks on July 31st. That came despite the young center having a guaranteed contract that was worth $1,312,611. Although it’s definitely unusual for the team to waive a skilled young big that has a guaranteed contract, that move makes sense when you consider the scenario that they were in.
First off, the Hawks already had a handful of centers with Dewayne Dedmon, John Collins, Mike Muscala and Miles Plumlee. Alongside that, Stone was honestly just a necessary and not so desired acquisition in that three-team trade. At that point, it seemed like the Hawks waived Stone during the middle of the off-season so that he would have plenty of time to find another team. But nearly two months later, he’s still a free agent.
In the time since that announcement, there’s been a complete lack of news surrounding Stone’s NBA future. While most young free agents are making their ways onto NBA teams by signing training camp or two-way deals, Stone just seems like he’s been forgotten about.
That really doesn’t make sense as he’s been a pretty productive young player no matter if he’s in college, G League or Summer League. Although there may be some concerns about his lack of athleticism or occasional off-court outbursts, it definitely seems weird for a 20-year-old player with high upside to still be a free agent in mid-September. It’s especially true when you consider how Stone stood as one of the brightest young stars in basketball just 24 months ago.
To be honest, the only recent comparison might be Cliff Alexander. Like Stone, Alexander entered college as an elite five-star recruit that has been praised since he around sixteen years old. Alongside that, Alexander was ultimately without an NBA gig just 12 months after graduating.
However, the similarities between the two aren’t really there as Alexander went undrafted in 2015 due to inconsistent play combined with various injuries that has really hindered his ability to stay on the court. In fact, Alexander has only one season (2016-17) since high school, where he’s playedmore than 500 minutes in a year. Although Stone has obviously struggled to get on a court, he’s remained healthy while also being pretty consistent as an on-court player.
Those reasons makes this whole situation strange because most prospects that are as young and talented as Stone are usually signed by now to a guaranteed or two-way deal. There’s still some time between now and when training camp starts later this month, but it feels like we might be running out of time before he gets a contract that’s better than your standard training camp deal.
As of this piece, 41 players have officially signed two-way deals, with each team acquiring at least one two-way prospect. That ultimately leaves 17 spots left to fill with 13 teams already signing the max if two prospects to those two-way contracts. Most teams that have signed only one player to a two-way contract have prospects signed to training camp with exhibit 10 clauses in their deals which could ultimately transition into a two-way. That fact further lowers the possibility that Stone could receive a two-way deal.
With that said, unless Stone immediately gets signed to a two-way or somehow lucks his way onto an NBA roster, Stone will probably get signed to a training camp deal with the likelihood of going to the NBAGL on a G League deal. Obviously that isn’t the end of the world but its a far departure of where Stone was at this point just two years ago. Will he be able to bounce back from this rough patch, succeed in the G League and make his way back to the NBA? We’ll see as training camp starts in just two weeks and the NBA G League opens up in early November.