The Other Guys: Cheick Diallo
The New Orleans Pelicans are not having the greatest of seasons. With plenty of drama surrounding Anthony Davis, and most of the news out of New Orleans negative, it would be easy to close the book on the 2018-19 version -- but it’s not an entirely lost season on the bayou. One player who is quietly making a nice name for himself as a reliable role player is Cheick Diallo.
Diallo, a 6-foot-9 big man, had tremendous credentials coming out of high school. He was the MVP of the 2015 McDonald’s All-American Game as well as the MVP of the 2015 Jordan Brand Classic before attending the University of Kansas. Despite being a top prospect, he struggled to find minutes behind a senior-laden frontcourt, and despite the promise of a greater role as a sophomore, declared for the draft after just a single season in college.
Diallo tumbled to the top of the second round where he was selected 33rd by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2016 NBA Draft, and promptly traded to the New Orleans Pelicans, where he has played his whole career. Though his career averages of 5.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, and .3 assists aren’t particularly eye-popping, he has proven himself a great role player by doing everything asked of him: scoring, defending, and providing a spark when asked to sub in.
The month of February was a nice one for Diallo. With the uncertainty around Davis and his role moving forward in New Orleans, Diallo has seen more court time than usual, and has used it well. Accustomed to 12 minutes a game, in February Diallo averaged over 18 minutes, and responded. He logged some of the highest point totals of his career -- 18 points -- against both the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls, one point shy of his career high of 19. His per game averages jumped to 9.5 points, 7.1 rebounds and .5 assists; it was one of the best full months of his career.
This has carried over and even increased in March. Though the month is young and the sample size small, Diallo’s up over 21 minutes a game, and has produced 13.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 1.0 assists per game - those are legit back-up-big stats for the Pelicans. And while it may seem like he’s been around for a while, Lagerald Vick, a member of his recruiting class at Kansas, is a senior this year - Diallo is just 22: he is by no means a finished product.
Not every player in the NBA can be a star; it’s important for each team to have role players teams can rely on to turn the tide off the bench, or keep a strong start going and add onto a lead. Cheick Diallo is a player growing into a really important role for the Pelicans this year.