BROOKLYN – It definitely was not the draft-night result Cheick Diallo hoped for Thursday, but the New Orleans Pelicans weren’t complaining.
A 2015 McDonald’s high school All-American, Diallo spent one season in college at Kansas, then declared for the NBA draft, hoping to become a first-round pick. It didn’t happen, as he went unselected until choice No. 33, causing evident disappointment for the 6-foot-9 power forward. The surprises continued when Diallo learned – while wearing a Los Angeles Clippers draft hat – that he had been traded to the New Orleans Pelicans. The Clippers received the 39th and 40th overall picks from New Orleans, choosing David Michineau and Diamond Stone with those selections.
“I feel not respected being picked 33,” said Diallo, the first-ever NBA draftee from the African nation of Mali. “But there is nothing I can do, so I just have to take it. You can’t (worry about) things you can’t control. I think New Orleans is the best fit for me. I just have to go there and fight.
“My goal (was to be picked in the first round), but if it didn’t happen, there is nothing I can do. Going to New Orleans is a new start.”
Although his drop to Round 2 was a negative for him individually, the Pelicans rated the 19-year-old highly and were pleased to obtain him that late in the draft.
“We really targeted this guy,” Pelicans GM Dell Demps said, after moving up in the draft to ensure that he’d acquire Diallo. “We were surprised he was there. We didn’t want to take the chance (of missing out on him). We had him rated higher (than a 33rd pick).
���He’s a young player who is inexperienced. There is going to be a growing curve. But one thing I can assure you is you’ll never see a lack of effort there. His motor is amazing.”
As Barclays Center emptied out and Diallo waited to take draft photos with family members, he removed his Clippers hat and began discussing joining the Pelicans. He used similar terms as Demps in listing his strengths on the court.
“I’m an energy guy. I box out, rebound the ball and protect the rim,” said Diallo, who played high school basketball on Long Island. “That’s what I do. I just want to do everything to make my team look good. I just want to run the floor, block shots and get rebounds.”
Demps described an energetic phone conversation with Diallo on Thursday night after the trade was completed. Diallo said he will try to use the first-round snub as motivation as he begins his NBA career.
“I was mad a little bit, but I don’t want to get mad because I didn’t get in the first round,” he said. “I just want to keep moving forward. I just want to keep fighting and prove everybody wrong.”