After strong showing at NBA Draft Combine, UM’s Moussa Diabate mulls next step

Detroit News

Chicago — The deadline is looming for Moussa Diabate.

The Michigan big man wrapped up most of his on-court work Friday at the NBA Draft Combine by playing in his second scrimmage in as many days, and now he begins the process of making the next big decision in his life — remain in the draft or head back to Ann Arbor for his sophomore season with the Wolverines.

“We’re gonna see, but that’s the end of the combine,” Diabate after a strong showing at Wintrust Arena. “I’m pretty much going to talk to my family and just break it down and just see what I’m going to do from here.”

The options are straightforward and Diabate has until June 1 to decide. Making that choice, however, isn’t as simple.

The 6-foot-11 Diabate has plenty for NBA teams to like. He’s long and athletic with tons of upside. But he’s raw, too, and not yet a great perimeter player, making a return to Michigan for another season possible, if not likely.

Predicting what a player might choose, though, is difficult, and Diabate doesn’t want to end up with just any team. He wants to be somewhere he can thrive.

“It’s a situation where I feel like I’ll be able to rise and get better,” Diabate said. “I don’t want to just go in there and just end up staying in the league for three years and just get out. I’m trying to get something where the structure is going to be solid and it’s going to help me grow as a man and as a basketball player.”

After averaging nine points and six rebounds in 24.8 minutes a game with the Wolverines, Diabate has been hard at work this offseason proving he has what it takes to excel at the NBA level. From workouts heading into this week’s combine as well as what he’s done the past few days, he believes he’s shown what he can bring to an NBA team.

“I’d say coming into a team, I feel my role I feel is going to be as an energizer,” Diabate said. “Playing defense, grabbing rebounds, running the floor. Just being athletic and communicating on the court and just being somebody that gives energy every single time.”

More: ‘Betting on myself’: MSU’s Max Christie looking forward to NBA Draft

Diabate said he’s met with roughly 10 teams during his time at the combine, mentioning Denver, Miami, Dallas, the Lakers and the Clippers among them. Where he might be drafted hasn’t been talked about and, frankly, Diabate said he’s not focused on that at the moment.

Instead, he’ll rely on his family and those close to him — Michigan coach Juwan Howard included — to help him make a choice on what his next move will be.

“I’m definitely going to talk to my family and agent and my coaches,” Diabate said, “and just make sure that I get the right feedback.”

Diabate is facing a similar decision as Caleb Houstan, his classmate at Michigan. Houstan has also entered the draft but opted not to take part in this week’s combine.

“I talked to him yesterday and he was doing fine,” Diabate said. “We really didn’t talk about basketball and I hadn’t talked to him in a minute. It was just me asking how he is doing, what’s going on, you know. He’s fine and he’s working out.”

More to prove

Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis is a likely lottery pick, but the Big Ten Player of the Year will be happy with just about any slot in next month’s draft.

“Anywhere from one to 60, I guess,” Davis said with a laugh at the combine.

Yes, Davis could go in any one of those spots, but it seems almost certain he’ll go in the top half of the first round. And while he’s probably not being targeted by the Pistons at the No. 5 spot, that doesn’t mean there isn’t interest.

In fact, Davis said he has spoken with the Pistons, and with general manager Troy Weaver’s history of making draft day moves, nothing seems far-fetched, including the idea of playing alongside last year’s No. 1 pick, Cade Cunningham.

“I’d love to play with Cade,” Davis said. “I think he’s a really great player. I don’t know too much about the roster so I won’t go into detail about it, but I think I’d fit very well with Cade.”

Davis enjoyed a breakout season as a sophomore at Wisconsin, averaging 19.7 points and 8.2 rebounds a game, earning All-American honors while being named a finalist for the Wooden and Naismith awards.

His production dropped off late in the season as he battled an ankle injury and teams dialed in on slowing him down. That, Davis says, is why his shooting numbers dropped. It’s not an indication, he said, of any lingering deficiencies.

“I just feel like I’ve still got something to prove,” Davis said.

On the radar

While potential targets for the Pistons like Purdue’s Jaden Ivey, Kentucky’s Shaedon Sharpe and Memphis’ Jalen Duren opted out of most workouts and media sessions at the combine, Arizona guard Bennedict Mathurin did speak with the media.

The 6-6 Pac-12 Player of the Year is deemed NBA-ready, much like Iowa’s Keegan Murray, and is another possibility for the Pistons at No. 5. Mathurin said on Thursday he hadn’t spoken with the Pistons, but that seems likely to change.

He’s proven himself as a 3-pointer shooter, but his athleticism might be just as impressive.

“I think my shooting is the biggest part of my game,” Mathurin said, “But I think I’m a two-way player. I think I’m able to showcase getting a stop defensively. We get a (win) because I get a stop, or offensively because I’m able to shoot the ball. It’s having an impact both ways.”

At just 19, Mathurin also believes the sky’s the limit for his future.

“I feel like I haven’t reached my full potential,” he said. “Far from it. I think I have places where I need to improve for me to reach the best of myself, but I’m all about learning and growing as a player.”

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau

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