In the 2016 NBA Draft, there was only one player selected from the University of Kansas, and for the first time since 2009, it was not in the first round.
During Thursday’s NBA Draft, the New Orleans Pelicans traded up with the Los Angeles Clippers for the rights to Cheick Diallo, the evening’s only drafted former Jayhawk. The Clippers took Diallo with the 33rd pick and immediately sent him to New Orleans in exchange for the 39th and 40th picks from New Orleans, who locked down Diallo as the newest developmental piece in their organizational puzzle.
In his lone season at Kansas, Diallo missed the first five games of the year while under investigation from the NCAA for eligibility concerns. It wasn’t until Dec. 1, 2015 that he saw his first live-action game. Diallo played in just 27 games in 2015-16, averaging three points and 2.5 rebounds per game. He had 23 blocks in 27 games and averaged 7.5 minutes per game.
Though his only college season came and went without fanfare, Diallo, the former fifth-ranked recruit in the nation, holds a promise of untapped talent that has carried him to the next level.
Pelicans’ general manager Dell Demps said the team, surprised to see Diallo still available at pick 33, was impressed by Diallo’s talent and intangibles.
“He’s a young player who is inexperienced,” Demps said. “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.”
After falling out of the first round, Diallo told Jim Eichenhofer of NBA.com that he was taking his second-round draft slot as a sign of disrespect.
“I feel not respected being picked 33, but there is nothing I can do, so I just have to take it,” Diallo said. “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.”
Diallo and sixth overall pick Buddy Hield will join a Pelicans team led by 2012 number one overall draft pick Anthony Davis. New Orleans has been looking for someone to supplement Davis, and Diallo could provide reliable backup minutes with tremendous upside.
Oleh Kosel of SB Nation’s The Bird Writes said the Pelicans were in need of help down low and that Diallo should fit nicely in New Orleans.
“The depth behind Anthony Davis is shallow,” Kosel said. “I expect Diallo will fit in nicely with the New Orleans Pelicans, as they traded two valuable second-round picks to reach for him. Traditional centers are a dying animal in the league, and the process was further expedited by Alvin Gentry begging for quicker pace and greater ball movement. Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca struggled to find any consistency in his system so the Pelicans smartly drafted an energetic, quicker and hopefully someday, better floor spacer. The NBA is looking for more Draymond Greens and Bismack Biyombos, and in time, Diallo may fit this mold of a smaller but more versatile big man.”
Diallo will likely struggle to find minutes in the 2016-17 season, and Kosel noted that New Orleans does not own a D-League team, so Diallo would have to stay on the Pelicans’ roster throughout his development.
“I assume if his Summer League, exhibition season and everything in between go well, the Pelicans will commit to him on a three- or four-year, team-friendly deal. I would expect him to get little to no playing time in 2017 as he exclusively works on his game and conditioning with the Pelicans staff. However, a full year spent on learning NBA nuances and the playbook as well as building a stronger physique should allow him to hit the ground running in 2018 for a possible rotation spot off the bench.”