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Getting to know Atlanta Hawks center Diamond Stone

What could the newly acquired center become?

Brooklyn Nets v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Diamond Stone is officially heading to the Atlanta Hawks by way of a three-team trade with the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers. He is a young big man that was selected 40th overall in the 2016 NBA draft after starring briefly for the Maryland Terrapins.

Stone appeared in just seven games with the Clippers last season and played in 13 games in the G League, nine with the Salt Lake City Stars and four with the Santa Cruz Warriors. Stone should be a pretty well known quantity within the Hawks’ organization as they should have had the opportunity to gather as much intel on him as desired given the relationships between the team’s front office and coaching staff and the parent clubs of the two teams he played with in the D League last year.

In terms of the deal that will bring Stone and Jamal Crawford to the Hawks, Kevin Pelton of ESPN insider gave the Hawks a B+ in his article breaking down the transaction. Specific to the addition of Stone, Pelton offers this:

Stone is a worthwhile addition for an Atlanta team short on centers. Drafted with the 40th pick a year ago, Stone saw just 24 minutes of action for a Clippers team more interested in playing veterans than developing rookies. He saw more playing time in the D-League, where his production, translated to its NBA equivalent, was similar to that of Derrick Favors, J.J. Hickson and Enes Kanter at the same age, according to my SCHOENE projection system.

Stone did have a reasonably successful stretch of play in the D-League from a statistical standpoint although his game is pretty limited at this point. His first few appearances reflected that the team was not willing to include him in little if any sophisticated action on either end of the court. Offensivelyl he was able to catch and shoot, operate in a simple post opportunity, or handle very basic high pick-and-roll action. You would not see him in side pick and rolls, for example, or any action that required anything beyond a basic read.

On the other end of the court, it appeared that, in defending the pick and roll during his initial games, he was instructed to play either a straight drop technique or a basic switch. Nothing more than that. On the occasions that they would allow him to do something along the lines of a hedge technique, Stone would completely lose contact of the player that was his primary assignment. Any action that involved more than a single read and the reaction of a strictly assigned technique would result in him basically being eliminated from the play as a defender and as a rebounder.

By the end of his stretch of play with the Salt Lake City Stars, you could see some improvement in his offensive game. He could operate in side pick and rolls, off-ball screens that included secondary and tertiary reads as well different versions of dribble-hand-off (DHO) action. The 20-year-old center is still pretty turnover prone but he looked more comfortable and confident in the context of the broader offensive actions that the Stars typically used.

Stone made significantly less progress defensively and, as such, he rarely played in the closing stretches of game. He did a little better at times hedging versus the pick and roll and staying attached to his man. But if, for example, the opposing team even bluffed the possibility of putting a third offensive player even close to the action, he would get lost.

Having said all of that, last year he was part of a Clippers organization that, since Doc Rivers has been in charge, has shown little interest in developing any young player whose last name is not Rivers. It will be interesting to see how Stone responds to being part of an organization that invests significantly in player development.

With the Hawks now having a dedicated G League affiliate, Stone could spend some time in Erie early this season, but that can’t be the plan for the entirety of the 2017-18 season. He will be a restricted free agent this time next year and the Hawks will need to have completed a thorough evaluation of him in an NBA setting as to determine if he might be a part of their future.

Lastly, Hawks fans might get to see Stone with the organization as soon as next week. Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Hawks do plan to have Stone play with their Las Vegas Summer League team. With that said, the exact timing of that plan will be dependent on passing a physical, though the formal announcement of the three-team trade should aid in his quick arrival.