DraftExpress Rank: 37
Season stats: 24.8 minutes, 10.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.8 steals, 42.8 FG%, 33.8 3PT%, 61.6 FT%
The aura of the unknown is an incredible thing. One year ago, Hamidou Diallo was a prospect with not much known about him. By most accounts, he had a mid-first round grade but opted to go to Kentucky instead of entering the draft.
Like seemingly every Kentucky prospect this season, Diallo was underwhelming. Though he showed flashes of what could be, he also showed many flashes of what is not to be. One of the elite athletes in the draft, Diallo has plenty of polishing that needs to be done before he’s a regular contributor on a winning team.
If developed correctly, Diallo is the perfect wing player for the modern NBA. If not, he joins a long list of athletes who never saw it click.
Athleticism – As mentioned, Diallo is one of the best athletes in the draft. He was top-eight at the 2018 Combine in max vertical (40.5″), three-quarter spring (3.11 seconds) and was third in lane agility (10.53 seconds).
At last season’s combine, Diallo was even more impressive, registering a 44″ vertical, a 2.79 three-quarter sprint and completing the shuttle run in 2.79 seconds, which would have been second-fastest in 2018.
When you see him put all that together in a game, it’s tantalizing.
The problem is, like many before him, the moments when it all clicks are interrupted by many more moments when it doesn’t. For every windmill dunk and crazy athletic finish in transition, there’s a play like this where Diallo’s is bull-dozing into the lane on a fastbreak out of control.
NBA players with crazy athleticism are a dime a dozen because if you can harness that athleticism into something useful, you have an incredible player. But there’s always an inherent risk you run with taking them.
Ball-handling – It’s always difficult to analyze Kentucky players because John Calipari does a fantastic job of pigeon-holing them into certain roles.
Devin Booker ran so few pick-and-rolls in college you could count them on two hands. Karl-Anthony Towns was used almost exclusively as a back-to-the-basket, low-post big man.
Because of that, I’m always skeptical that players always have something else in the tank from Kentucky that they don’t get to show.
For Diallo, I think his pick-and-roll and passing could be an underutilized aspect of his game. His ball-handling is loose and he’s known for some out-of-control, behind-the-back crossovers, but there are small flashes to give you an idea of a future there.
In both instances, Diallo is coming off screens, recognizing the help defense and putting his teammate in a position to score.
Scoring – Diallo has shown an ability, at times, to score at all three levels. Beyond the arc, Diallo shot 33.8 percent from three and has good form on his jumper that should translate well.
Incredibly, of Diallo’s 26 made threes this year, every single one was assisted. He’s probably not going to be a guy who hits threes off the dribble, but he can knock down spot-up opportunities.
In the mid-range, Diallo flashed some promise though it was, again, in brief glimpses. He still has the same fluid motion and stroke, but shot just 28 percent on two-point jumpers.
In both instances, because the shot looks so natural and because he finds himself in good places, it’s easy to talk yourself into thinking time in the gym spent on his shot will lead to better results. But that’s what most GMs think when drafting hyper-athletic players, too.
At the same time, he shot just 61 percent at the line, raising some concerns about whether his jumper won’t need some fixing at the next level.
Finishing at the rim, though, is Diallo’s best NBA skill. He can finish through traffic, in traffic, over traffic. You name it and he did it. On the season, 35.5 percent of Diallo’s shots came at the rim where he shot 65.8 percent, a respectable average.
He has great body control when he gets in the air and is able to absorb contact and finish or use his athleticism to get around bodies and arms to score.
On the other end of the floor, Diallo has the makings of a great defender with his 6’11″+ wingspan and his blistering speed to dart into passing lanes. The problem was, often, he lost on defense and relied on that athleticism to get by.
Off the ball, he can lose concentration and lose his man. On the ball, he can get beat due to taking poor angles thinking he can make up for it with his size and speed. There’s a lot of fundamental changes that will have to go into his defense.
Again, though, when it works, you get plays like this that make you excited for what the future could hold for him.
Diallo stays in front of his man, forces him into help defense, partially blocks the ball, then flies out in transition and throws down a monster dunk.
Fit With Lakers
Diallo is someone that excels in transition. For the Lakers, that’s a style they’re begging the team to run. But Diallo is not nearly consistent enough on either end to see much time in the league. It wouldn’t shock me to see him spend a fair amount of his season, no matter where he’s drafted, spent in the G-League.
But considering Diallo won’t turn 20 until the end of July, he can afford to spend time developing his game.
He has way too many moments offensively where he’s running around out of control and plenty of moments defensively where he looks out of his element and lost. If you can cut down on both of those, you will find yourself with a Corey Brewer- or Andre Roberson-esque player. If the Lakers can find that in the second round, it’d be another steal.