The 2016-2017 New Orleans Pelicans season did not go as planned. Some Pelicans shined, while others fell short. Rookie Cheick Diallo showed quite a lot of promise through the campaign.
In his first year on the New Orleans Pelicans, Cheick Diallo delivered on his hype.
While New Orleans fans paid more attention to Buddy Hield at first, his mid-season trade would turn the attention to Diallo. Cheick was drafted in hopes of becoming a solid bench option at the power forward slot. Anthony Davis needs rest at times. What better option than a big, with similar skills and untapped potential to fill that role?
Diallo did not have a ton of time with the Pelicans this year. He would only play in 17 of New Orleans’ games. The rest of his time would be spent in the NBA Developmental League. Diallo did stand out in his D-League performances. However, this about his time on the Pels.
In 17 games, Cheick Diallo put up 5.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 0.4 blocks per game. Those numbers are not drastic positives. However, for a second-round pick giving sparing minutes at this level, it has merit. Diallo had four of his 17 games end with double-digit points. That also includes three games with at least 10 rebounds and six games with over five boards. His impact in the paint also saw six games, with at least one block.
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To put it simply, Diallo was not afraid to be a threat on defense and offense inside. While his range failed to show much outside of near the basket, his shot around the rim stood tall. His impact, for a kid fresh out of college at 6’9″ and 220 pounds, helped the Pels when they needed him most. While Davis stayed healthy and New Orleans had plenty of bigs on the roster, Diallo gave them something none of those guys could…
The Pelicans went after bigs that fit the system and had mostly developed their games already. Guys like Alexis Ajinca and Donatas Motiejunas are not likely to add much more to their one-dimensional games. However, Diallo has the ability to grow and add new things to his game. Cheick has already discussed gaining muscle and power inside this offseason. His game certainly mirrors that becoming a huge improvement.
Cheick Diallo likes to play with his back to the basket on offense and holding his opponent firm on defense. More size and power can be a major factor for the future. With the Pelicans major questions at the backup big and their glaring salary cap issues, Diallo’s progress is a big story going forward.
Outside of stats and possibilities, Diallo looked great on the floor this year. His effort stood out among all things. When he was on the floor, he was out to prove what he could do. Whether it was diving for loose balls or giving that extra bit of effort on the glass. Cheick did not leave anything in the tank and gave it his all every night out. That’s a huge positive to see, from a kid that seems to love the game of basketball. He would grind most of the season through the D-League, yet seems to adore playing at the NBA level.
Going forward, the D-League will likely see less of Cheick Diallo this year. New Orleans will not have much of an answer for a backup power forward and will want to give Cheick major minutes, to continue his growth. His game is becoming more of an actual NBA project. Diallo has shown he can make real impacts at the professional level.
That’s a fantastic outlook of this season. Before the season began, Diallo wanted to show the Pelicans his second-round potential could be a serious piece for this team’s core. In just one year, he has accomplished that feat. His promise and high ceiling cement just that. For a 20 year old kid, looking to live out his NBA dream, what is not to love about that prospect going forward?
When evaluating Cheick Diallo’s year, the amount he has been able to achieve in just 17 games at the NBA level makes him one of the biggest winners of the season. He has paved the way for his inclusion to the big leagues, sooner rather than later. While many (including myself) thought Buddy Hield would be the rookie that gave youthful promise to the Bayou, it was actually Cheick Diallo center stage, set to steal the spotlight off the bench and give fans a surprise they did not see coming. Cheick that one off as a win for the New Orleans Pelicans and Diallo.