Cheick Diallo wasn't on too many radars entering the 2016 NBA Draft, but he most certainly stands front and center for fans of the New Orleans Pelicans now. Yesterday, he became the 33rd selection by the Los Angeles Clippers on behalf of the Pelicans as a result of draft day trade.
The most interesting fact about Diallo is the amount of collegiate minutes he played in his only season at the University of Kansas. Apparently, 202 minutes is all it took for Dell Demps to notice him, although his per 40 minute numbers for a freshman (16.0 points, 13.5 rebounds, 4.6 blocks and 1.4 steals) are worth mentioning.
So, let's have a look at how several of the writers at The Bird Writes viewed Diallo's selection.
I believe that he could become something special, playing next to Anthony Davis with his long, athletic frame. However, he is largely unproven, seeing as he did not play much at Kansas, and it did come at the cost of getting two players as opposed to just one. Second rounders don't often pan out, so if the Pelicans really fancied this prospect, I can't be too upset with the move. Plus, it gives the Pelicans a cheap option to put next to Davis in the front court sometime down the road.
Getting Diallo in the second round seems like a steal since he was considered a top 20 pick in some circles. It's hard for me to dispute that notion as there is almost no game tape to bolster an argument either way. As UNLV's Patrick McCaw slid, though, I thought the Pelicans had a real shot at filling a huge area of weakness with a solid 3-and-D guy and good handles to boot. However, the Warriors bought his rights from the Bucks -- a move the Pels should have been all over.
If we could have added McCaw to the Cheick Diallo grab bag, this would have been an incredible draft. However, with just Diallo in the second round, I'd give a grade of, "Hmmmmmm....I'm not sure" if I was allowed. In fairness, although he's undersized, he apparently is a very good athlete, possessing a great motor and work ethic. He's extremely raw offensively, but rebounds well and is also a good rim protector. He's obviously not as good as this comparison sounds, but from what I've read about him he sounds like he's somewhere between Bismack Biyombo and Kenneth Faried. Or he at least has the physical gifts and will to maybe turn into that at some point, which would be a very nice player to put next to Anthony Davis.
I like the idea of drafting such a high-potential player in the second round, especially Cheick. The guy has serious athleticism, a decent looking shot, and was a five-star recruit heading into Kansas. Despite a forgettably quiet season, the promise is obviously there, and Diallo could in many ways find a role on the Pelicans more easily than at Kansas because of the stress on fast pace and post protection in the NBA. A high-motor player with talent can be a rare find, and if Diallo develops, this could be one of the steals of the draft. Because of his work ethic, too, Diallo might make a name for himself early, as one of those precocious supposed projects who's immediately ready.
Under normal situations, I would have loved the pick. But the steal of the draft was selected just two picks higher, and I think a trade possibility would have made sense for Deyonta Davis starting around the mid-20's. Unless the Pelicans really tried to make a move, they traded up for the lesser power forward.
The other protuberance for me was that there was plenty of talent at 39 and 40. Ben Bentil is in my opinion an Enes Kanter in the second round, Diamond Stone has the complete package for a second-round center, Kay Felder is Nate Robinson's son, and Patrick McCaw could have been an immediate contributor in a much needed role. Simply put, I don't know if Diallo is worth two of those three on potential alone. However, overall, this is a draft class that we could look back on fondly if everything goes accordingly to Dell Demps plan.
To be fair, I don't know enough about this player to really give an opinion. I'm sure there will be varying opinions on the this pick, but tit's really a wait and see situation. On the surface Diallo looks like a explosive but raw athlete. Perhaps the Pelicans believe they can develop him into the rangy versatile type of player that has become so popular in the modern NBA.
Fans won't want to hear it, but this is a pick that can only be truly evaluated in retrospect; however, I kind of like the Pels taking a chance on a guy like this. Sometimes in the draft you have to swing for the fences. When Milwaukee drafted Giannis Antetokounmpo (granted he was a 1st rounder) he was best described by ESPN's Fran Fraschilla as being, "A year away, from being a year away." For the Bucks, it worked out and now they look like geniuses. Diallo is a second round pick, so the Pelicans have much less invested than the Bucks did when they drafted Giannis. The second round is where you should take risk since the potential downside is near zero.
I was personally leading a charge to try to trade back into the first round to select Deyonta Davis, who ultimately went 31st overall to the Memphis Grizzlies via Boston. Maybe the Pelicans didn't have enough assets to get into the first, but I was hoping Tyreke Evans would be sufficient bait. Alas.
I do like the selection of Diallo for what it represents. Cheick Diallo is a raw but talented big man who doesn't turn 20 until September. He didn't play much thanks to being behind a bunch of seniors at Kansas under a coach in Bill Self that regularly buries talented freshmen. Combine that with an eligibility question that kept him out of five games and Diallo played the whole season (the few minutes he did) behind the eight ball. Dell Demps chose potential, youth, and development here. I would have preferred a wing, such as Patrick McCaw, but just going young with Diallo's upside gets another B from me.
Diallo is a fine player and has the upside to be a nice defensive player given proper development time, but I'm not a fan of this selection for two reasons. The first is two picks were spent to move up and draft him. With the cap jumping next season, those picks were valuable. Second, better and more beneficial players remained on the board.
The Pelicans have a total of two players that I would classify as wing players -- one they drafted hours earlier. To me, staying at 39 and 40 could have resulted in the addition of a stable wing player and a big man with intrigue. Second round picks don't matter until a Draymond Green comes up, but New Orleans, with very few players on the roster for the long-term, lost out on the opportunity to test drive another young player.
A grade of C connotes average, right? Well, that's the grade I feel most comfortable handing out at this point since I've spent only about 15-20 minutes analyzing Diallo. On the one hand, I trust the Pelicans saw something in the Kansas center to move up in the draft at the cost of potentially two valuable draft picks. His scouting reports and highlight videos show the type of big man I've been craving for since Jeff Adrien wore a uniform. (Think back to the last exhibition season.)
On the other, I've only spent about 15-20 minutes analyzing Diallo. An analyst needs to spend more time than that to truly get a good read of an individual's abilities both on and off the basketball court. Further, his age (19) and the organizations' preference for immediate contributors could make his situation tenuous. A prospect like Diallo could require years of patience.
1. Diallo has a lot of talent and skills that he didn't get to showcase because of an NCAA investigation and Bill Self's preference for veterans. Given greater playing time at Kansas, his high motor and character would have been more evident and ensured he would have been selected in the first round.
2. With the Pelicans drafting Diallo, it demonstrated that the front office may not be as short sighted as people think. The young center will take some time to develop, being 19, but he could blossom into a major rotation piece next to Anthony Davis for years to come.