In terms of physical attributes, were talking about one of the most athletic players in the draft; featuring a 42 inch vertical leap, excellent strength, terrific quickness and an explosive first step. Few players can stay in front of him in college basketball, and he uses this to create his own shot dozens of times in every game he plays in.
Offensively, there are very few spots on the court that Diaz is not capable of scoring from, showing a terrific combination of perimeter shooting, slashing ability and shot creating skills, and a very nice in-between game to compliment that. His aggressive shot-creating style of play appears to be tailor made to the NBA, much more than it was in the NCAA where defenses could guarantee a victory simply by doing whatever it takes to shut him down.
Diaz has a picture perfect stroke from beyond the arc, featuring terrific elevation, a quick release, deep range and a beautiful high-arch on his jumper. He can hit shots both from static positions and off the dribble, and appears to become better and better as the game wears on, showing little hesitation to hoist up shots at any point. His numbers here (36.4% from 3-point range) dont do justice to the kind of shooter he really is because of his teams offensive system and the number of contested shots he was forced to take at the end of the shot clock every single game.
If his man is crowding him on the perimeter, Diaz will blow right past him with the greatest of ease thanks to his phenomenal first step. He has a very strong crossover he can go to as well as a variety of hesitation moves and head/body fakes, showing significant improvement in his ball-handling skills over the past year. Hes become much better at creating space for himself, which means that he doesnt have to just barrel his way into the lane like we saw all too often last season. Even when he does, though, Diaz has wonderful body control and an incredible vertical leap to make spectacular plays look easy. Its here where Diaz looks most like an NBA player, contorting himself, finding the smallest of openings to split double teams, spinning wildly and using his strength to finish gracefully high off the glass, often with contact. Diaz is a tough and hard nosed player who does not mind challenging bigger and stronger players at the rim in order to get to the free throw line.
If the lane is just too crowded to force his way into, Diaz has developed a very nice mid-range game this season to make things easier on him. He has the ability to stop on a dime and just explode off the floor, getting to the apex of his jump to where he is almost parallel to the rim and then showing great touch and concentration to knock the shot down.
In terms of passing or point guard skills, he didnt have many opportunities to get more than just a few minutes at the point each game so its hard to judge, but when he did he would at times show a very nice feel for the game in terms of his unselfishness finding the open man and making the extra pass. His court vision isnt bad; underdeveloped would probably be the better way to describe it. Diaz is likely a better passer than most people realize, but he was in the wrong system to show that playing next to two other undersized shooting guards on the perimeter and no legit big men at Miami.
Defensively, Diaz doesnt seem to place nearly as much of a priority on this part of his game as he does on the offensive end. His quickness, strength and footwork mean he has plenty of potential to develop here, but this isnt an area where he really excelled in college due to his lack of intensity here.
Off the court, Diaz is a quiet guy who draws rave reviews from his coaching staff for his work ethic and attitude. Considering that hes only been playing organized basketball for 4 years, his feel for the game is excellent and his potential to continue to improve his skills is still tremendous. In terms of the guard prospects in this draft, there may not be anyone with a ceiling as high as his.
The biggest question mark about Diaz pro potential is his position at the next level. At 6-2 (and a fairly small 6-2 at that), he is most certainly a point guard in terms of size, but his skills do not stack up with what you would expect from a playmaker and he has very little experience running the point. He does not appear to have an amazing wingspan either to make up for his average size.
You never quite know what you are going to get with him, as his motor is very inconsistent. He often takes too long to assert himself in games, deferring to teammates and only begin to take over when his team needs him most. In other occasions he will get out of control, forcing the issue excessively, being turnover prone and demonstrating poor shot-selection.
He often makes things much more difficult on himself than they actually should be, getting too cute in the paint going for a Dwayne Wade type spectacularly difficult finish rather than securing the simple two points. He could still stand to improve his ball-handling skills, as well as develop a more consistent floater or runner he can go to in the lane to finish in traffic. Even though hes already an excellent shot-creator, there is still plenty of room for him to improve his efficiency and continue to add polish to his perimeter game, especially in terms of experience, as he gets by more on instincts and improvisation skills than set plays or real coaching.
Defensively, as noted in the strengths section, Diaz doesnt take enough pride in this part of his game, lacking a bit in the intensity area, gambling a little too much for steals and often letting slower players blow right by him. There are a number of excuses you can make for him; hes forced to expend so much energy on the offensive end on almost every possession, hes often asked to guard shooting guards or small forwards because of the two fellow tweener shooting guards that make up Miamis backcourt, he doesnt have great fundamentals considering his lack of experience, etc etc, but at the end of the day he will have to show that he can hold his own on this end to find success at the next level. Considering his potential tweener status, its important for him to improve significantly in this area, as hell likely be asked to defend both point guards and shooting guards in the NBA and will need to muster up every bit of effort he can to make sure his coach keeps him on the floor.
On and off the court, Diaz is a very quiet and nonchalant player. Rarely will you see him get worked up about anything except maybe a bad call, looking just as cool, calm or some would say apathetic when his team is up in a big game as he does when they are down by 20 points or more. His leadership skills in particular could be much better. Considering that he was Miamis absolute best player and go-to guy at all times, he did not assert himself in the huddle or in terms of demanding more from his teammates on the floor as you would expect a star player to.
Diaz and Miami never made the NCAA tournament in his three years in Coral Gables, coming tantalizingly close his sophomore year before collapsing down the stretch. The coach that recruited him, Perry Clark, was fired right after his freshman year, and the team lost almost their entire recruiting class, including Kansas big man C.J. Giles. New head coach Frank Haith did a nice job with the little he had in his first year of tenure, but the entire team regressed significantly this season and never appeared to be playing up to their full potential. Many wondered why Haith insists on recruiting players who are best suited for an up-tempo style of game, but then force them to grind it out the entire shot-clock. Hundreds of times this season wed see a situation where the shot clock gets under 10, the team passes the ball to Diaz on the perimeter, and everyone clears out while watching him go 1 on 5. Sometimes he would pull out his magic and find a way to score, but more often than not he ended up having to settle for an incredibly difficult shot that rimmed out.
Individually, Diaz didnt have the type of season he probably thought he would when he decided to return for his junior year. His production dropped off in terms of points, rebounds and FG%, but his assists and assist to turnover ratio improved significantly. Part of this had to do with tendonitis in his knee that robbed him of much of the explosiveness we saw from him previously. NBA draft websites dont have full access to his medical records and doctors to personally evaluate him, so its hard to say how serious this is or how it might affect him. We do know that he had arthroscopic surgery last summer, which is considered fairly inconsequential, and that he did not appear to be in the same excellent shape this season as he was last year.
Diaz was a world class volleyball player in Puerto Rico (named MVP of the 2003 Under-18 World Championship in Thailand) before he decided to come to Miami for his senior year of high school to attend Miami Christian under Puerto Rican pipeline feeder, Coach Art Alvarez (now of the Miami Tropics AAU team). The half season he spent playing high school basketball in the states (he was eventually ruled ineligible) was his first taste of organized basketball. Miami decided to sign Diaz very early on after arriving in Florida, before anyone else could really catch wind of him.
Despite his extreme lack of experience, Diaz was still Miamis third leading scorer as a freshman at just under 12 points a game, shooting 46% from the 3-point line. Despite putting up impressive numbers for a freshman he still flew completely under the radar until he exploded in his sophomore season, taking the ACC by storm on his way to averaging 18.6 points a game on just under 46% shooting. As a junior, Diaz struggled a bit as mentioned after losing much of his explosiveness recovering from knee surgery. He averaged 17.2 points and 2.9 assists compared with 2.0 turnovers, while shooting just 41.6% from the field.
Diaz is an interesting prospect in this draft whose stock wildly fluctuates depending on who you are talking to. His stock was at an all-time high last year after absolutely taking the ACC by storm and nearly taking Miami to the NCAA tournament almost by himself. After being convinced by his coaching staff to come back for his junior year he did not improve his numbers or win totals the way many had hoped, partially due to the knee surgery he had over the summer which forced him to change his style of play.
Now that he is in the draft and hired an agent, it will be interesting to see how hes evaluated. He does not fit the mold of your typical point guard or shooting guard prospect in terms of his combination of size and skills. With that said, he does appear to fit the direction of what the NBA is rapidly turning towards with the rule changes that eliminate hand-checking and has made the life of scoring guards infinitely easier. Its reached the point that nearly half the teams in the NBA have gone towards playing two smaller guards on the perimeter (usually one point and one combo) for at least parts of games, which forces defenses to change their game plan and has made the term combo guard much less of an insult that it was in the past. The success of combo guards like Dwyane Wade and Gilbert Arenas at the forefront, followed by players like Mike James, Jason Terry, Ben Gordon, Cuttino Mobley, Jamal Crawford, Juan Dixon, Fred Jones, Eddie House, Salim Stoudamire, Charlie Bell and of course the modern pioneer, Bobby Jackson, backs this up. If GMs and especially coaches see potential in Diaz to be a 6th man or 3rd guard in this mold that can come off the bench and allow his team to change the flow of the game with his offense, his stock will rise and he has a chance to work his way strongly into the middle of the first round. If they view him as a tweener who will have to be converted into a true point, he could very well go in the 2nd round.