Every good NBA team has a good bench energy guy. Someone that fans get excited about when that guy is on the court. Sometimes that guy is irrationally confident, like Dion Waiters. Othertimes, that guy is just a young, athletic marvel. The Pels have one of the young and athletic guys. His name, Karl Malone.
You were probably just as confused as I was seeing Diallo pull this off. I thought there was no way this was the same Diallo who got 2 fouls in his 6(!) minutes against Sacramento and then got benched for 3 weeks until Boogie got hurt.
So let’s take a look at what my expectations were for Diallo a month ago.
So what’s been the difference?
Diallo is playing smarter on defense. In his first 22 games this year, he averaged 1 foul in less than every 6 minutes. That’s bad. Like really bad. Like close to averaging a foul out per 36 mins bad. Giving up all the free points bad. Not even giving Davis 2 mins of rest because Gentry can’t trust you not to rack up fouls bad. Okay you get it. It was bad. This is a prime example of the bad:
Diallo falls behind the guy rolling to the hoop, loses positioning, and locks him up to make up for it. Easy call, bad foul, and something that doesn’t inspire trust from the coaching staff. Cheick only played 10 or more minutes in 5 of his games prior to Cousins injury. One of the biggest fears for the Pelicans was that they had limited big depth and that Davis would need to play all of the minutes.
Post Boogie Injury – A New and Improved Diallo
Since Boogie got hurt, Diallo has played 10+ minutes in 11 of the 12 games. And he only getting a foul every 10.3 mins. This is a huge improvement for Diallo and is crucial for the Pelicans as they need a big to play servicable minutes. And for Diallo, he needs to be on the court to get used to the pace of the NBA.
Let’s look at the tape to see what the good defense from Diallo looks like.
Diallo has the right court awareness to realize Smith is setting up a lob, and is athletic enough to adjust on the fly and get a hand on the ball to cause the steal. Plays like this are why so many Pels fans were excited Diallo could develop in the G League last year. And improved defense isn’t all. Diallo has been really good on the boards for the Pels, pulling in 15 against the Mavs, 3 of them on the offensive glass. He’s averaging 14.5 rebounds per 36 mins over his last 12, which puts him 8th in the league for guys who have played at least 100 mins, and right behind Houston’s Clint Capela.
What To Expect Going Forward
Young players usually take time to develop, especially guys like Diallo who were known to be raw when they were drafted. His play since Boogie went down is encouraging, but that isn’t to say Diallo is a future All-Star – heck, he might not ever be a starter. But the Pelicans need bench depth, especially at the 5, and Diallo has been playing like a real NBA player. If he can keep this up, he’ll have earned his minutes for the Pels stretch run the rest of the season.