New Orleans Pelicans should start Cheick Diallo next season

Cheick Diallo New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images)
Cheick Diallo New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images) /

When given meaningful minutes this year, Cheick Diallo has been making a case for being a big part of the New Orleans Pelicans’ rotation in the future.

In a season where the New Orleans Pelicans are working to figure out what their identity will be once Anthony Davis is finally out the door, third year power forward Cheick Diallo is putting together a pretty compelling argument for why he should be considered for a starting role in 2019-2020.

To this point in his career, Cheick Diallo has yet to register an impressive professional season just by looking on the surface at his statistics. His 4.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game don’t exactly scream “starting power forward” at a glance.

However, if you’re willing to dig a little bit deeper and focus on him during games, you’ll quickly figure out that Diallo has some untapped potential that the New Orleans Pelicans would be wise to try to harness as they transition into life after Anthony Davis. The most obvious intangible that doesn’t necessarily appear on a stat sheet is Cheick Diallo’s motor. He’s always a burst of energy off the bench and is clearly a hard worker and hustler when he sees minutes.

If you look more closely at his statistics from individual games during the current season, there are a few that jump out as impressive performances, but in general, he seems to put up fairly average numbers over the 11.5 minutes per game Coach Alvin Gentry has given him to this point. But if you focus on games where Diallo is played for more than 20 minutes and is truly given a shot to impact the game, things get very interesting.

There are six games this season in which Cheick Diallo has played over 20 minutes, averaging out to 23.3 minutes per game just using these examples. In these contests, Diallo puts up a very productive 14.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game while shooting a very efficient 72.4% field goal percentage. Imagine what these stats could grow into if he was given actual starter’s minutes at over 30 per game. It’s a small sample size, but promising nonetheless and worth exploring.

These are numbers that rival a player like Indiana Pacer’s center, Domantas Sabonis, a talent that’s heralded league-wide as being one of the most promising young prospects in the NBA. Sabonis is a better creator and shooter from range, but it’s an apt comparison otherwise and shows just how high of a ceiling Cheick Diallo is showing when given the opportunity to prove his worth.

A former second round pick, Cheick Diallo could wind up being a major success story for the New Orleans Pelicans and a total steal based on his draft position. His future role with the team hinges on what type of players the Pelicans receive back in whatever Anthony Davis trade package is accepted, but barring another young and promising power forward coming back in an offer, Diallo should get the starting role to gain the experience he needs to keep growing into an awesome contributor.

There’s an argument rookie Kenrich Williams should get the start at power forward next year, but he’s more naturally a fit at small forward and could be a great option as Sixth Man if the Pelicans bring over a different player to start at the 3 (such as Jayson Tatum, for example).

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Cheick Diallo is still only 22 years old and will surely keep improving and refining his game, especially if he were to keep seeing meaningful minutes. When the New Orleans Pelicans are constructing their roster for the future once Anthony Davis is traded, Diallo is showing the front office that he is worth investing in and should possibly be given Anthony Davis’ starting role next fall.