Stock watch: Finding the right NBA team for Cheick Diallo
Just a couple days ahead of the 2016 NBA Draft no one is certain exactly where Kansas forward Cheick Diallo will be selected — other than somewhere in the second half of the first round.
That’s a desirable outlook for a prospect who averaged 3.0 points and 2.5 rebounds in 7.5 minutes a game during his one-and-done run at KU.
As of Tuesday, DraftExpress.com predicts Diallo, a 6-foot-9 post player from Kayes, Mali, will go 18th overall, to Detroit.
However, as Bill Self told reporters last week, getting drafted by the right team can be more important to a player’s professional development than when he is selected.
Before we dive into how Diallo might fit in with those franchises, here’s an interesting take on him from an anonymous scout, courtesy of Seth Davis at CampusRush.com.
"My question is, does he know what he is? If he understands he can make millions of dollars being a rebounder and shot blocker, he'll be terrific. If he thinks he needs to be a scorer, he'll hurt himself because he has no offensive game. I hear he's going top 20. Only a fool would take him there. He's an undersized four who can't shoot, and our league is about shooting right now."
Anyone who followed Diallo’s season with KU quickly recognizes the scout’s point on the big’s offensive limitations. And whichever team invests its pick in Diallo will do so because of his 7-foot-4.5 wingspan and what type of defensive player he might become in a few years.
So one key question in this Diallo debate will be: Which teams can afford to wait for him to develop?
Here’s a look at which teams own draft picks in the range projected for Diallo:
No. 17. Memphis
No. 18. Detroit
No. 19. Denver
No. 20. Indiana
No. 21. Atlanta
No. 22. Charlotte
No. 23. Boston
No. 24. Philadelphia
No. 25. L.A. Clippers
No. 26. Philadelphia
No. 27. Toronto
No. 28. Phoenix
No. 29. San Antonio
No. 30. Golden State
MEMPHIS, 17th pick — No one has projected Diallo would go this high since before he played college basketball (boy, are NBA coaches and general managers glad they don’t have to deal with picking players straight out of high school anymore). But No. 17 is just ahead of where DraftExpress thinks Diallo will be selected, so it’s a good place to start.
If there’s one thing the Grizzlies have, it’s big men. Center Marc Gasol is under contract through 2020, and the Grizz have at least one more year of the man who puts the power in power forward, Zach Randolph. Plus, Brandan Wright is a reliable veteran post man off the bench, and JaMychal Green had a surprisingly productive finish to his season.
So Memphis definitely doesn’t need Diallo right now. But if there aren’t any available perimeter players that intrigue the Grizzlies, you could see them snagging Diallo and bringing him along slowly in the next couple of years.
DETROIT, 18th pick — Unless the Pistons want to get Diallo in order to turn him into an undersized backup center to play behind starting pivot Andre Drummond, I don’t think Stan Van Gundy would be especially interested.
Van Gundy’s teams tend to revolve around a dominant big man, and it appears unlikely Diallo ever will become that on offense. What’s more, Van Gundy prefers power forwards who stretch the floor with their shooting ability (see: Marcus Morris). Diallo just might not fit the Pistons’ style — now or in the future.
DENVER, 19th pick — The Nuggets, though currently existing as a middling Western Conference also-ran, have plenty of big men in their front-court rotation. While none of them are exactly household names, they are respected interior players nonetheless.
You never know what kind of trades could shake up any given roster between now and the start of the 2016-17 season, but if nothing happens with Denver on that front, the Nuggets would have bigs Kenneth Faried, Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic under contract for multiple seasons, as well as Danilo Galinari and Wilson Chandler (who mix their time as stretch-4’s, and on the perimeter).
I don’t think Denver would draft Diallo because of that depth, but if it did it would be a good place for the 19-year-old to learn about life in the NBA, as an observer for a couple of seasons.
INDIANA, 20th pick — Myles Turner and Lavoy Allen are the only traditional big men under contract for the Pacers entering next season, so adding Diallo as insurance and using him sparingly as a backup could be in play at No. 20.
One would think given that need for post players — if Indiana doesn’t re-sign free agents Jordan Hill and Ian Mahinmi — the team would rather pick up a big man who can play and produce sooner. But if Larry Bird is confident he can bring back those two or add more big men via free agency, Diallo would be a great addition and they could teach him and mold him as they see fit before giving him meaningful playing time.
ATLANTA, 21st pick — This is the first case late in the first round where the team’s need may be too great for it to take a raw project such as Diallo.
There’s a very good chance the Hawks could lose Al Horford in free agency, and if that proves true it would leave them with just Paul Milsap and Tiago Splitter as veteran post players.
Atlanta needs someone who can help them immediately, and it is difficult to envision Diallo producing inside for an NBA team in the next 12 months. The Hawks, I’m guessing, would look elsewhere for a big man.
CHARLOTTE, 22nd pick — Unless the Hornets bring back free agents Al Jefferson and Marvin Williams, they’ll need some additions to their front-court rotation. You can’t just trot Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky and Spencer Hawes out there and think everything will be all right in the post.
Odds are, either via trade or free agency, Charlotte will add some veteran help down low this summer. If that’s the case, it would make a lot of sense for the Hornets to select Diallo and let him grow as a player, under the tutelage of assistant coach Patrick Ewing.
The Hornets recently spent four seasons successfully developing big man Bismack Biyombo only to let him sign with Toronto as a free agent a year ago, just before a breakout campaign. After seeing first-hand how far Biyombo came, you could see why Charlotte would want to do the same with Diallo.
BOSTON, 23rd pick — The Celtics have eight draft picks this season, so if Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens like Diallo as a project for the future, they probably wouldn’t hesitate taking someone they know is a few seasons away from playing a key role. There are plenty of more chances for Boston to take players more ready to transition to The Association.
With interior players Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, and Kelly Olynyk under contract, and Boston actively pursuing big-named free agents and trade possibilities, Diallo wouldn’t be asked to become part of the rotation for at least a couple of seasons. The Celtics, under Stevens, have become strong defensively, and investing in Diallo for the franchise’s seemingly bright future shouldn’t surprise anyone.
PHILADELPHIA, 24th and 26th picks — If Diallo is still around at this point of the draft, you almost have to like his odds of joining Joel Embiid as a Kansas big man on the Sixers.
Philly, which will reportedly take Ben Simmons No. 1 overall, could have two chances to take Diallo. And, believe it or not, the downtrodden franchise might finally be in position to select a big man in the first round and not immediately insert him into the lineup.
It looks like Embiid might finally play next season, joining fellow lottery picks Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor as options in the post (assuming neither of them gets traded), and yet another recent draft pick who has yet to suit up for the 76ers, Dario Saric, is likely to join the team next season, too.
None of this means the Sixers will suddenly be a playoff team, but it does mean the franchise could get away with taking a gamble on a big man with some upside for down the road.
L.A. CLIPPERS, 25th — Now that Chris Paul is 31 years old, the time for the Clippers to win is now, which means the last thing the team needs is a big man who can’t make L.A. better immediately.
It’s hard to come up with a reason for Doc Rivers adding someone who has little to no chance of contributing to a championship chase next season.
BEST CASE SCENARIO: Toronto, 27th; San Antonio, 29th; or Golden State, 30th — While Diallo, as a competitor, surely would be disappointed if he didn’t get chosen until the final picks of the first round, waiting a little longer on draft night could set him up for a perfect start to his career.
The Raptors, one of the best teams in the East, and the Warriors and Spurs, two of the league’s model franchises, own three of the final four picks in Round 1 (Phoenix picks at No 28.)
If either Toronto, San Antonio or Golden State took Diallo, he could gradually come along as a player behind the scenes, working with some of the best staffs and rosters the NBA has to offer.
Odds are the high-energy forward will be valued enough by various teams to come off the board before this point. However, Diallo could easily turn into a force as a backup big man in a few seasons with the Raptors, Spurs or Warriors.