With Pistons starting point guard going down for the majority of the year, one of the glaring holes in their roster was the guard spot. While many may say that the problem was the coaching of Stan Van Gundy and his mismanagement of bench guards Luke Kennard, Langston Galloway, and Dwight Buycks, you could say that Kennard and Galloway are primarily shooting guards and perimeter players. As for Buycks, some didn’t think he showed a consistent ability to beat defenders off the dribble and cause good penetration. Having all of that in mind, I along with many others started leaning towards the idea of trying to find a potential bench guard with Detroit’s second round, 42nd overall pick.
My search led me to Kentucky two-way guard, Hamidou Diallo. This was his second year enrolled at Kentucky, but only his first season playing. Diallo enrolled in January 2017 and was eligible to play the second half of the 16-17 season, but decided to sit out. He decided to participate in last springs draft combine, it was there that the 6’5″ guard with a 7-foot wingspan wowed scouts with off the chart test numbers. The most eye-catching result was his vertical jump, which measured up to be 44.5 inches, the second highest jump ever recorded at the event. Although his athleticism was top tier in the draft, many teams had questions about his overall ability to play the game due to not seeing him on the college level. With no first-round pick guarantee, Diallo decided it would be best to return to Kentucky for the 17-18 season and show scouts exactly what he could do.
Diallo started all 37 games for the Wildcats this year, averaging 10 points, 3.5 rebounds and only one assist per game while shooting 42.8% from the floor and a somewhat respectable 33.8% from the 3-point line. He went on to shoot 50 percent from deep at the end of the season, hitting 8 of his last 16 attempts beyond the arc. Much more impressive than his jumper though is his ability to get to the rack and draw fouls. He had a nearly 40 percent foul rate during the season. When you’re able to draw a foul on almost half your touches it shows how often you create a disadvantage for the defense. Getting to the line more often or drawing more fouls may be something many wouldn’t consider when delving into the potential of draft prospects, but it was an area that the Pistons truly lacked in last year. Out of all teams in the NBA, the Pistons were 25th in the league in free throws attempted per game.
Another undervalued aspect that Diallo will add to the Pistons is a promising youth project type of player. At 19, Diallo would provide Detroit with a “project” type prospect on a team friendly deal, a positive for the Pistons, who are cap strapped. When you take a closer look at the Pistons guard chart, there are a lot more question marks than there are answers. Aside from starting guard Reggie Jackson and back up point guard Ish Smith, there is a lot more left to be desired out of the other guards, like veteran players Langston Galloway and Jameer Nelson. Adding a young moldable project piece into the rotation may be just what the guard rotation needs for the years to come.
Diallo’s biggest weakness at this point of his development is his offensive inconsistency. In Kentucky’s first 12 out of conference games, he averaged 15.3 points per game while actually putting up 18+ points in six of those games. Once Kentucky entered their SEC portion of the schedule, Diallo dropped to averaging only 7 points per game. I believe part of that is because of his own flaws, along with the coming forth of his teammates Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jarred Vanderbilt. He went on to show off his high ceiling again in the first weekend of tournament play. In the 61 minutes, he tallied 30 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocks on 12-16 shooting. He played lights out in their second-round game, putting on display his freakish athleticism with amazing dunks and blocks. Diallo’s jump shot also looked smooth and without a hitch in that game, showing how good he truly can be when he puts it all together.
I’ve seen Diallo legitly projected as high as the 10-15 range and as far down as the Pistons taking him at 42nd, sometimes even further down. He is widely considered as a high upside/high downside kind of player, it depends how much a team falls in love with his athleticism and flashes of potential. If he is there when the Pistons are up to pick at 42, I don’t see how they can go wrong taking him, even though he is somewhat of a gamble. Even with the question marks Detroit has throughout their roster, risking a second-round pick on a player with the potential Diallo has is a risk that should be taken.
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