Hamidou Diallo had a rollercoaster-ride of a one (and a half?) and done season at Kentucky. We saw flashes of brilliance, specifically in the Monmouth, Virginia Tech, UCLA, and Buffalo games. At other times such as the three Tennessee games, Vanderbilt at home, and Kansas State, Diallo disappeared.
We saw extreme athleticism, but streaky shooting. Above-average defense, but too many turnovers. Very rarely did we see Diallo have a complete game, and as a result, his NBA stock dropped.
He was seen as a first-round lock going into the year, and came out as a solid second-rounder.
Like John Calipari, though, NBA scouts and analysts aren’t giving up on Hami quite yet. In fact, ESPN listed Diallo as a “second-round sleeper and steal to watch” in a column posted this morning by draft experts Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz.
They start by listing Diallo as a potential 3-and-D wing player, a role almost every championship-contending team has in their arsenal.
In their description of why he fits the “sleeper” mold, ESPN says Diallo was “one of the best wing defenders in the college game” late in the year. When engaged, they believe he can be special.
On offense, they point out his “thermonuclear athleticism,” highlighting the 44.5-inch vertical he posted at the NBA Combine last year. If he can continue to fine-tune his shooting mechanics and improve like he has over the last two years, he has second-round steal written all over him.
Check out their full description, including player comparisons such as Tony Snell and Jason Richardson:
Why he fits: Diallo is the prototype for what NBA teams are looking for at the wing position, standing 6-6, with a near 7-foot wingspan, a frame that will fill out in time and thermonuclear athleticism. His shooting mechanics are far from broken, and he showed marked improvement with his jumper over the past two years, completely revamping his mechanics. He has always been described by those around him as an incredibly hard worker who has little interests outside of basketball. Diallo’s defense was inconsistent, but he improved as the year moved on; late in the season, Diallo had some remarkable stretches where he looked like one of the best wing defenders in the college game. When Diallo is fully engaged and operating at full intensity, he flies all over the court, covering ground exceptionally, getting in the passing lanes, chasing down blocks and showing multi-positional versatility. Players with comparable length are frequently asked to defend power forwards at times in today’s NBA, and while his frame looks to be a long ways away from doing so, it is not out of the question considering his youth.
Despite spending a year and a half in Lexington, Diallo still hasn’t turned 20 and is the same age or younger than many of the freshmen projected to be picked. Considering his offensive limitations, there’s a case to be made that he was in one of the worst situations of any prospect in this draft in terms of highlighting his deficiencies, playing the shooting guard position while being surrounded by non-shooters.
Key stat: 7-foot wingspan, 44½ inch vertical leap, 19.8 years old, 34 3-point percentage as a redshirt freshman
As far as weaknesses go, ESPN pointed out Diallo’s tough situation in college of being a poor shooter, surrounded by non-shooters throughout the year on offense. They said he wasn’t able to magnify his strengths and hide his weaknesses like some players his age get to do, giving him the benefit of the doubt.
ESPN’s latest mock draft has Diallo going No. 40 overall to the Brooklyn Nets, a team that was heavily interested in the Kentucky guard last offseason during the pre-draft process. Diallo, a Queens, NY native, would also have the chance to play in front of a hometown crowd every night.
Not too shabby.