After an up and down rookie season, Hamidou Diallo is using the 2019 NBA offseason to take his game to a new level with former Wildcat teammate, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
In his first year in the league, Diallo played sparingly. Less than a month into the action he scored a career-high 18 points vs. the Kings, but he never saw the court for more than 20 minutes the rest of the year. Diallo finished his rookie campaign averaging 3.7 points and 1.9 rebounds in just 10.3 minutes per game.
Even though he did not see the court too often, he made the most of his opportunities. Diallo’s highlights at the rim earned him a spot in the Slam Dunk Contest. The title was Diallo’s once he jumped over Shaq and hung on the rim with his elbow.
Determined to receive more time on the hardwood for the rebuilding Thunder in 2019-20, Diallo told the New York Daily News his primary focus this offseason is on improving his basketball IQ.
“I feel like that’s the biggest game-changer, just knowing the game and seeing out the floor, and sniffing things out before they can happen,” he said.
“Last year coming in, I was still looking for minutes and still felt like I deserved more minutes, but things happen, things occur, and it’s basketball. This year I’m coming in and I just trust my work. And I’m putting in work day in and day out, and I mean it’s no payoff. I’m gonna have to go out there and produce on the court. And I just have to keep preparing myself to take a jump.”
Oklahoma City’s brightest star, Russell Westbrook, may have departed, but it made way for Diallo to team up with his old UK backcourt running-mate, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
“I feel like it’s going to be great. He’s a well experienced guy, he’s been in the league, he’s been starting,” Diallo said of SGA, who averaged 10 points and three assists on 37 percent three-point shooting last season. “We’re both competitors. I know him pretty well and I can’t wait to get out there on the court with him.”