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The Diamond Stone situation is complicated

It’s easy to say he should’ve stayed at Maryland. But is it right?

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Minnesota Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Former Maryland center Diamond Stone fell out of the first round of Thursday night’s NBA Draft, to No. 40 overall. He’ll be a Los Angeles Clipper, at least to start.

Stone had been thought recently to be on a fence between the first and second round, so it’s not shocking in the short term that Stone wasn’t a top-30 selection and, thus, is not a shoo-in for a guaranteed professional contract.

It is undoubtedly a hurtful blow for Stone. He was a projected lottery pick when he committed to Maryland in March 2015, and he maintained at least some buzz to that effect for much of his freshman season in College Park. Stone was a consensus top-10 prospect in the class of 2015. Now, he’s got no guarantee whatsoever of making the NBA next season. The life of a second-rounder is not a charmed one.

Stone had three years left of collegiate eligibility when he left school and hired an agent. That’s all gone now, and Stone’s path is either clawing onto the end of an NBA roster, playing in the NBA D-League (where the maximum salary is less than the value of his Maryland scholarship) or falling out of the league and playing elsewhere. Stone can definitely make this work, but he now has a long road ahead.

“DIAMOND SHOULD HAVE STAYED IN SCHOOL” is a really easy take, and I’m not sure it’s wrong. Stone had a number of things he could’ve improved on with another year of development, and perhaps he’d have raised his stock by the 10 picks necessary to get himself into the first round and earn guaranteed money.

But it’s not nearly that simple, really, when you get down to it. By the accounts of several people in the NBA media who I trust, next year’s draft class is a lot stronger than this year’s. Stone might well have not gone up draft boards at all, even if he did get a bunch better with another season in the Big Ten. And if that were to be the case, there’d be plenty to say for starting a career a year sooner and, most importantly, starting to draw some kind of paycheck a year sooner.

Had Stone known he’d be a second-round pick, would he have still turned pro as a teenager? Knowing for sure is hard, especially because Stone will be right to only want to look forward in the days to come. There’s no sense in dwelling on decisions made.

At the time, Stone’s departure made absolute sense. If the decision was merely about making money, that’s now questionable, but it’s not certainly wrong. Then there’s another dimension, that perhaps Stone simply didn’t want to stay in college or just wanted — for reasons he and his family have no obligation to share — to get out of Maryland and get into the NBA.

Stone plummeted in the draft, and that’s a shame. His basketball future doesn’t look nearly secure as it could’ve, and nor does the big money that could come with it.

The real lesson here isn’t about Diamond Stone’s decision-making, though. It’s about sports, and it’s about how cold and unforgiving the business side of them can be.