NBA experience: Two seasons (two with Pelicans)
Games played/started: 52/0
Partly due to excellent health that unfortunately had too often been rare for New Orleans in previous years, three different Pelicans players appeared in 82 or 81 regular season games in ’17-18 (E’Twaun Moore, Darius Miller, Jrue Holiday). By comparison, Diallo has a total of just 76 official NBA games under his belt over a two-year period, including the seven times he was on the floor during the ’18 playoffs.
As he approaches his 22nd birthday later this offseason, the University of Kansas product – who also averaged just 7.5 minutes a game in one season with the Jayhawks – continues to work hard to improve as a player. Perhaps the biggest thing he needs to keep progressing, however, is on-court experience. Partly due to a season-ending injury to DeMarcus Cousins in January, Diallo eventually became a regular member of New Orleans’ rotation in the second half of the campaign, displaying some of the skill set and upside that made him the No. 33 overall pick in the ’16 draft.
The native of Mali immediately got back in the gym following the conclusion of New Orleans’ playoff run, intent on making further strides as a player. He’s expected to play in Las Vegas summer league for the Pelicans, joining fellow recent early-second round pick Frank Jackson. New Orleans has frequently traded its first-round picks this decade in order to acquire proven veterans such as Cousins, Jrue Holiday and Nikola Mirotic, but part of the franchise’s future success might be determined by how well youngsters such as Diallo and Jackson (the first pick of Round 2 in last year’s draft) can fulfill their promise and emerge as important contributors.
VOICE OF THE FAN
As part of our look back at the season, we checked in with Pelicans fans to get their feedback on 2017-18. Ninth in the series: What makes you the most excited/optimistic about Cheick Diallo’s future or potential? Some of the responses were mentioned in the podcast portion of this season review, but here are a few others:
There’s no debate that New Orleans has leaned toward established pros over the potential risk of bringing in draftees in recent years, but the Pelicans have partly begun the process of stocking their roster with youth and depth by virtue of non-lottery picks. Toronto is probably the best model for this in the current NBA, rarely picking high in the draft due to being a perennial winner, but targeting players such as Pascal Siakam (No. 27 pick) and Fred VanVleet (undrafted), who’ve emerged as valuable pieces.
Diallo enjoys doing that gesture after he blocks a shot, which pays tribute to Hall of Famer center Dikembe Mutombo, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo.