Diaz Drafted, Now Ready to Show He Can Play

There are two ways to view what former University of Miami shooting guard Guillermo Diaz went through on draft night as he saw his name passed over time and time again until he was finally selected late in the second round with the 52nd pick by the Los Angeles Clippers.

The first view that Diaz took could be the positive view of saying,

‘I was selected in the NBA Draft and only 60 players get taken in the draft, so now I have a chance to prove to the teams that didn't select me that they made a major mistake and I will make the Clippers very happy that they did take me.'

Or...

‘I just lost out on a guaranteed contract. Second round draft picks get a weak opening contract in comparison to the at least one to two million dollars that Diaz would have received per season had he been selected in the first round. I should have definitely left school as a sophomore, but also, maybe I should have returned to school for my senior year and possibly gotten back to my sophomore season form.'

More than likely, both of those thoughts went through Diaz's head as he saw his name fall through the draft until the Clippers selected him.

Although Diaz was unavailable for comment, his mentor and former high school coach Art Alvarez did confirm Diaz's disappointment and confusion during draft day, but also mentioned what many people who watched the draft may have not initially realized.

"He was drafted," Alvarez said. "So many great players didn't get drafted and when you think of it in a way that 15 Europeans got drafted, Diaz was recognized as one of the top 45 players in the United States in this draft."

Alvarez continued, "Players like Wake Forest's Justin Gray, Syracuse's Gerry McNamara and Michigan's Daniel Horton all went undrafted. Those are some great players. It puts things into perspective and helps you understand that how tough it is to get drafted. That's something we had to help him understand because it was definitely a tough night for him."

WHY HE MAY HAVE DROPPED

Projected by most mock drafts as a late first round pick, it had to surely be disheartening to Diaz to see his name tumble down the boards when the projections were so good. Not one mock draft had Diaz going lower than 45th and most had him going somewhere in the 20s. The reality is that those six hardcore grueling weeks in Tampa made little to no difference in where Diaz got drafted for a few reasons. But the main one is this: Diaz can do a number of things well, but he doesn't do anything spectacularly, or he hasn't since his sophomore year.

For example, Dwyane Wade can take the ball to the hoop like a maniac and creates shots that mystify even the most creative imagination. Reggie Miller could shoot the daylights out of a basketball. Magic Johnson was a magician with the ball. Shaquille O'Neal is so physically overpowering he dominates.

But what teams may have also noticed is the University of Miami never made the NCAA Tournament with Diaz even though the conference was down this past year. He never elevated the Hurricanes to the next level and that goes to the tune of making your teammates better, something that wasn't clearly apparent last season. At least that might be what NBA scouts may have believed.

And while it may be considered a compliment to be called a great athlete by ESPN's Jay Bilas, Billas really had nothing else to say incredibly positive about Diaz which was surprising since Bilas has gone on record in the past praising Diaz quite a bit.

On draft night, Bilas said that Diaz DOES NOT like to take the ball to the basket, and in fact, prefers to take the pull up jumper as a catch and pop shooter. Having watched Diaz play for three years, I don't actually agree with that, but I'd call it more of an insult than a compliment to a basketball player who's played three years of college basketball while players from Europe who most of us have never heard of were picked ahead of Diaz and all Bilas could do was praise the unknown in the Europeans.

The fact of the matter is Diaz is a streaky good shooter, but not a great shooter, certainly not J.J. Redick-like. Diaz is a good ball handler, but not a Chris Paul type of ball handler. He is quick, but he had lost the explosiveness to the basket that he possessed before knee surgery his sophomore year. Did he show that explosiveness for the NBA teams he'd worked out for? Apparently not enough as he surprisingly dropped to No. 52 in the draft.

DIAZ'S SKILLS AND TALENT WILL SHOW

However, Diaz's skills are undeniable and he may very well end up being the steal of the draft. As a late first rounder, early second round pick, Diaz would have been a good pick. As a late second round pick, he's a steal if he can develop into the player that many believe he can be.

Alvarez is convinced though that Diaz will be on an NBA roster, most likely the Clippers when the 2006-2007 season begins.

"What made the draft so difficult and confusing for Guillermo was the Knicks called us and said they would take him at 29 if he was available," Alvarez said. "But then they decided to go with Mardy Collins because they didn't expect him to be available. Then the Heat was trying to trade up to get Guillermo, even having Guillermo have an MRI on his knee the day before the draft, but that didn't happen. Then the Clippers called us and said they were trying to trade up to get him because they didn't think he'd be available at No. 52. The trade up wasn't available and when he was available at No. 52, they were ecstatic that they were able to get him. But it was definitely an emotional roller coaster."

Another factor that Alvarez pointed out was that many of the European players selected ahead of Diaz were 7-footers that have done nothing and were selected on nothing more than potential.

Diaz has a ton of talent, but apparently NBA teams shied away for a reason or a number of reasons that we'll never know. Diaz has a sculpted physique in his 6-foot-2 body, but that's just what it is, a 6-foot-2 body with no true basketball position. Is he a point guard? Is he a two guard? Can he play both?

"Teams probably did wonder what position Guillermo plays, whether it was the one or the two or if he can be a combo guard, but he'll simply have to earn it. He's already been invited to training camp. Other players have had to go the route that Guillermo will have to take," Alvarez said. "He's going to have to earn it, just like Dallas' Jason Terry. What position does Terry actually play? Probably the same one that Guillermo does."

These are the questions that he needs to answer if he wants to make the Clippers roster, one that is far better than it's been in the past, a team that made the Western Conference Semifinals this past season.

Diaz, however, was drafted, something only three other former Hurricane basketball players can lay claim to over the past 16 years and he probably has more physical gifts than any one of them being Tim James, John Salmons and James Jones. Salmons and Jones are both still in the NBA and having successful careers so there is no reason to think the same won't be true for Diaz.

However, the major difference initially will be felt in his pocket over the first couple of years of any contract he signs because it won't be for first round dollars. There is always that risk of injury that can prevent a basketball player from getting that second contract, which for players that develop after being second round picks is usually the lifestyle changing contract.

Regardless of what happens, CanesTime is part of the Miami Hurricanes family. We wish Guillermo Diaz all the best and continued success in the future, hope that he proves all the critics and so-called experts wrong and congratulate him on being an NBA draft pick.


Rudy Rodriguez-Chomat can be reached at rudy@canestime.com

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