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Breaking Down Cheick Diallo’s Stellar D-League Stint

Contributor Francis Adu breaks down Cheick Diallo’s impressive stint in the D-League with the Austin Spurs.

NBA: Preseason-Indiana Pacers at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

After a tumultuous sole season in Lawrence, Kansas, former Jayhawk Cheick Diallo has looked determined in his NBADL advent to remind basketball of his former star prospect status. In the first five games of the NBADL season, Diallo has established himself as the Austin Spurs’ most effective player. Diallo’s 7’4” wingspan has been as imposing as advertised, a fact his 3 blocks per game can attest to. Cheick’s wingspan has guided him to his current position as the anchor of the 7th best defense in the D-League thus far. With Diallo in the lineup, the Austin Spurs defend at a rate of allowing 99.4 points per 100 possessions, a mark that would take the Spurs into the top 5 best defenses if extrapolated over all minutes.

Despite barely reaching 6’9” in shoes, Diallo’s Reed Richards arms and Peter Parker quick leap just overwhelm opposing forays in the paint. Diallo keeps eyes on the opposing ballhandler at all times, ready to unload his springs to smother drives. To complement well with his ball awareness, Diallo has fantastic nimbleness to hydroplane across the paint and get in position in time to utilize his blocking prowess.

On the offensive end of the court, Diallo has done well to slowly polish off the rawness of his skillset from his amateur years. Diallo has started to utilize a somewhat reliable floater to give him another option in the paint besides dunking. Diallo has always had decent touch around the rim so any improved fluidity in his movements with the ball exponentially heightens his scoring capabilities. Still, Diallo bakes most of his bread by using his stellar frontcourt quickness and work rate to find gaps to ready for dumpoffs. Maintaining a usage rate of over 20% while still having over 50% of his baskets assisted testifies to Diallo’s fantastic off-ball actions.

Diallo seems to be getting a very good understanding of how to maximize spacing without having a threatening jumpshot from range. Even the lack of jump shooting may serve as a moot point if his increased confidence in his free throw shooting and midrange shot out of the triple threat remains. Shooting 11 for 30 beyond 10 feet from the rim doesn’t look overly impressive on paper, but is still a giant leap from the rudimentary stage of shooting development Diallo was in just last year.

The growing willingness to shoot a jumper out of the triple threat has augmented well Diallo’s occasional attempts to drive past slower frontcourt players to the rim. Diallo has been able to freeze up his defender with a pump-fake and barrel straight towards the hoop with little resistance. Diallo’s incremental improvements in the halfcourt expands his offensive usefulness beyond just a fastbreak weapon because of his mobility and jumping quality.

The 33rd overall pick from the 2016 NBA Draft could prove his Kansas stint to be a blip on his projections rather than the rule. Diallo’s senior New Orleans Pelicans squad has notoriously struggled to find franchise cornerstone Anthony Davis a worthy running mate in the interior. If Diallo can find a way to use his energy more effectively for consistent rebounding on both ends, he instantly profiles as an ideal option for New Orleans to try. At the very least, the path to a 2017-18 NBA rotation spot remains relatively bright for the gifted Diallo. The decision to leave college early may prove quite fruitful for him.