LEXINGTON, Ky. — Will Hamidou Diallo stay or will he go? Kentucky basketball fans (and coaches) eagerly await the answer to that question, although hope for a return to college seemed to dwindle after his performance at the NBA Combine in Chicago last week.
While he didn’t participate in 5-on-5 scrimmaging — just as he sat out the second half of the Wildcats’ season — Diallo did post an eye-popping 44 ½-inch vertical leap, best at the combine, and top-five times in most of the other athletic tests there. So he’s gone, right?
“It definitely makes things more interesting. He helped his case,” one NBA scout told SEC Country. “I think he’s smart for not participating. Clearly he’s getting some really good advice from people, including Coach Cal, who I don’t think will let him fail. In terms of suspense that’s grown, the buzz that’s growing because he’s not playing, I think it helps him.”
However, NBA teams still have all the same questions about Diallo they did before the combine: Can he shoot? Will he defend? What is his basketball IQ? For all the intrigue, it’s a gamble to take Diallo in the first round without that information.
The same scout talking about “buzz” also hesitated when asked whether his franchise would take Diallo somewhere between the 25th and 35th pick, which seems to be the most optimistic range for him in the 2017 draft.
“I don’t think so,” the scout said. “We’re one of the few teams without a D League team, so we have no place to put him. We need people who can help us now, and that’s probably not him.”
Draft Express moved Diallo up just one spot to 35th overall (the fifth pick of the second round) in its latest projection after the combine and the site’s top analyst, Jonathan Givony, told the Herald-Leader that despite the impressive testing numbers, “I don’t it really affected anything either way.”
In other words, the NBA knew Diallo, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard with a 6-11 wing span, was a freak athlete before the combine. The numbers only reinforced that but did not solve the mystery of whether he can hang with the best players in the world on the court.
“It may have moved the needle a little, but you can’t base his status on limited looks,” another NBA scout told SEC Country. “Workouts will be key for him. Otherwise, it’s a big gamble in the first round for sure.”
Diallo has reportedly worked out for the Chicago Bulls (16th and 38th picks) and Milwaukee Bucks (17th and 48th) already this week and will work out for the Brooklyn Nets (22nd, 27th and 57th) on Thursday. Because he still hasn’t hired an agent, Diallo has until May 24 to decide whether to stay in the draft or return to Kentucky.