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Cheick Diallo outperforming numerous draft picks like Marquese Chriss, Thon Maker and Skal Labissiere

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Practically every team in the NBA passed on this seldom used center from the University of Kansas. WHOOPS!

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The name of Cheick Diallo elicited a lot of different responses during my five days in Las Vegas. Early on, I heard remarks ranging from questionable to some downright bust descriptions, but as the tournament progressed, a number of the naysayers became believers and with very good reason.

In 117 minutes, Diallo rates statistically as one of the strongest performing big men in the 2016 Summer League tournament. He has emerged as a fantastic rebounder and strong shot blocker while possessing a highly efficient offensive game. He knows his role and has normally stayed within these boundaries.

Just as I analyzed Buddy Hield several days ago, comparing him to related peers, now it's time to look at Diallo alongside a number of young power forwards and centers -- all drafted before the #IronCheick. I must warn you, the statistics are quite positive.


AGE TS% BLK% ORB% DRB% USG% TOV% PER ORTG DRTG
Cheick Diallo (4) 19 55.1% 5.9% 10.7% 24.9% 15.6% 7.3% 19.6 115.4 94.0
Marquese Chriss (3) 19 38.3% 2.1% 11.5% 21.0% 23.3% 20.3% 4.9 74.5 95.5
Jakob Poeltl (3) 20 86.1% 8.2% 17.1% 15.4% 9.3% 19.7% 25.0 151.6 82.8
Thon Maker (4) 19 49.3% 4.0% 9.4% 21.8% 22.5% 11.8% 16.8 99.4 98.7
Georgios Papagiannis (3) 19 35.9% 0.0% 11.1% 18.1% 21.9% 30.1% -0.7 57.8 98.3
Skal Labissiere (4) 20 43.5% 4.8% 3.4% 23.9% 24.1% 17.9% 11.4 75.5 95.0
Ivica Zubac (3) 19 71.7% 6.9% 11.7% 14.9% 12.9% 9.6% 22.9 143.0 84.8

Statistics are courtesy of RealGM and the numbers in parentheses are the amount of Summer League games under their belts.

It is immediately apparent that the three strongest performers (Diallo, Poeltl or Zubac) are not only of the lower usage variety but also the best shot-blockers -- indicating a sense and desire to play defense. My eyes confirmed this as their effort on that end seemed greatest.

It is interesting to note, though, that Diallo is the best defensive rebounder of the group while Poeltl and Zubac rank as the worst. Do his instincts and motor put him in a class all by himself? Maybe, but that question cannot be answered at this time. However, at least the Pelicans have already made their most important discovery -- Diallo possesses the package to play in the league. It's not often this can be said of second rounders in just several exhibition appearances.

Another surprising contributor in front of the Las Vegas crowds has been Thon Maker. Many pegged him to be a raw project, but he's shown he can be surprisingly effective when he plays within himself -- it's when he's tried to do too much that he's found trouble. If he can harness his ability, the Bucks may have indeed struck gold. For instance, it's scary how much his shot and release reminds me of Kevin Durant.

There wasn't a player who exceeded my expectations more than Jakob Poeltl. Prior to the draft, he was nearly radioactive to me, but after a couple of viewings, I'm now a fan. Although a rookie, he played like a savvy Summer League veteran, often making the right plays or positioning himself in the correct spots. His mobility and willingness to battle in the paint, despite giving up strength/weight to most opponents, was a real bonus. If he adds a reliable jumper to his game, he'll be a starter for years... I'd be ecstatic if the Pelicans could flip him for Omer Asik today.

On the other side of the coin, Papagiannis looked like the worst performing draft pick of the first round. Against the Pelicans, he did absolutely nothing (0/7 shooting, 3 turnovers and 5 personal fouls in 20 minutes). The combination of a terrible TS% and a ridiculously high TOV% suggests his offense has years to go before becoming palatable. The problem is he's really slow, so unless he learns impeccable footwork and develops sound decision making, his ceiling would fall short of Asik.

What the hell were you thinking again, Vlade?

Well, at the very least, the Kings also drafted Skal Labissiere, who I feel has a chance to fit well alongside DeMarcus Cousins. Willie Cauley-Stein, with his limited range, isn't the answer. Once Skal gains more strength, Sacramento will be able to use him more inside the paint, on cuts and seeking easy putbacks.

Sometime next week, look for an in-depth breakdown of Diallo through pictures and video so as to give you an idea of what I witnessed first hand out of this promising rookie.