A year later, New Orleans’ 2016 draft class has already helped yield a perennial All-Star, in the form of a trade that brought DeMarcus Cousins from Sacramento, which reportedly coveted Pelicans lottery pick Buddy Hield. The other member of last year’s two-player New Orleans draft crop may not provide dividends as quickly, but the potential is there down the road for Cheick Diallo to become a frontcourt contributor.
After playing sparingly during his one college season at Kansas (just 202 minutes), Diallo spent 2016-17 shuttling between New Orleans and the D-League, gaining valuable experience at the lower level. Diallo played a total of 724 minutes in the D-League for three different teams, finishing with per-game averages of 15.0 points and 8.5 rebounds. That learning experience appeared to pay off late in the NBA season, when Diallo posted a double-double on back-to-back nights to close ’16-17. Overall, when Diallo played 20-plus minutes – which happened in five games – he averaged 13.4 points and 10.6 rebounds.
“Cheick is one of those players who just needs experience,” Alvin Gentry said in his season-closing press conference. “There are going to be situations where he does a lot of great things, but there are going to be situations where he makes a bunch of mistakes, because he’s a young player. He didn’t play at all at Kansas, really. We sent him down to the D-League and he did a good job there.
“He’s one of those kids where it’s going to be very difficult for him to fail, because of the work ethic he has and the attentiveness he has for trying to get better and details. It may take a little while – he’s not a guy who’s going to jump off the screen and all of a sudden be doing this, but I think from a process of learning and getting better, he’s going to do that, because he’s going to put in the work every single day.”
NBA experience: 1 seasons (1 with Pelicans) || Games played/started: 17/0 || Age: 20