The New Orleans Pelicans traded their 39th and 40th picks of the second round to the Los Angeles Clippers for their 33rd overall selection. The Pelicans then had the Clippers select Cheick Diallo on their behalf, a freshman center from the University of Kansas.
Diallo is considered undersized at the five -- standing 6'7.5'' and weighing 220 pounds -- but many are enamored with his athleticism, motor and wingspan (7'4.5''). For a comparison, think of a slightly smaller Bismarck Biyombo but a player who has a chance of developing a jumpshot.
Coming out of high school, Diallo was regarded as a 5-star recruit, but failed to solidify a role in Kansas' rotation -- he garnered 202 minutes in all. Regardless, he decided to enter the NBA Draft after a very solid showing at the NBA Combine. In one game, he posted a line of 18 points, 4 rebounds and 4 blocks. In another, 9 points and 10 rebounds.
Sam Vecenie of CBS Sports projected last month that Diallo could have gone as early as in the middle of the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft.
Basically, an event like the combine is tailor made for Diallo to succeed. Since bursting onto the scene as a prospect in high school, Diallo has long been known for his tremendous athleticism in running the floor and his insatiable motor. In a game like this one -- as well as in an NBA that is increasingly played in the open floor and in space -- those skills shine through and allow him to really perform well.
He's also known as an active defender who can block shots and really guard in space due to that mobility at his size. Those players are rare in the NBA, and they've become even more valuable in recent years due to the relative downsizing of the game. It's worth noting that Diallo is absolutely still a bit of a project on the next level given that he's only been playing basketball for about six years, but the combine allowed him to show teams that this season wasn't necessarily his real self and that he's a project worth undertaking.
At first glance, it appears Dell Demps may have landed one of the steals of the second round. Obviously the Pelicans thought rather highly of Diallo since they moved two successive picks less than 10 spots away to get him with a number of appealing candidates still on the board.
The first chance to see Cheick Diallo in action will be at the Las Vegas Summer League. Buddy Hield and Diallo will suit up for New Orleans against second overall pick Brandon Ingram and the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, July 8th at 9:30 PM central. The game will be televised on ESPN.
Stay tuned for more analysis and grades in the days to come.