The Detroit Pistons and Hamidou Diallo agreed to a two-year, $10.4 million deal this offseason. For a player like Diallo, this is as close to a “prove it” type of contract as it gets. What can we expect from Diallo? What will his role be this season? How does his role change from his limited sample of games with the Pistons last season?
When Troy Weaver traded Diallo midseason, it was clear he had a plan for the young wing. Diallo was in the last year of his rookie deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and teams don’t typically trade for expiring contracts unless they are: 1. trying to clear salary or 2. wants to get a player it believes is going to be part of its long-term plans additional time to acclimate to the system. Diallo falls into the latter.
The emergence of forwards Darius Bazley, and Lu Dort made Diallo an expendable asset for the Thunder, and Troy Weaver capitalized on the opportunity to bring in a guy he helped draft in Oklahoma City.
Diallo has shown flashes of high-level play throughout his career, and that includes his time with the Pistons last season. In his 24 games with the Pistons, Diallo filled a sixth man role, averaging 11 points and 5 rebounds per game. Diallo was efficient with his opportunities averaging nearly 50% shooting from the field and nearly 40% from behind the arc on nearly 2 attempts per game. If Hami can keep that up over a full season, the Pistons will have landed him on an incredibly team-friendly deal.
Still just 23 years old, Hami has improved his field goal and three-point percentage each of his three seasons in the NBA. Paired with his length, athleticism, and defensive upside, it’s a safe bet that Diallo will find himself in the Pistons rotation, even if his offensive game never takes the “next steps” he is capable of achieving.
Of course, whether Diallo reaches these next steps or not is in part why Diallo sat on the market as a restricted free agent for so long. Sure, most teams knew that the Pistons were likely to match any deal for Diallo, but the fact that there weren’t any reported offers from other teams says a lot about where Diallo is from a developmental perspective. That is to say, the only way to pry Diallo from Detroit’s grip would have been to offer a contract that a team was willing to pay that the Pistons weren’t willing to match. The fact that external offers weren’t made tells me that teams felt this type of deal wasn’t good business, based on the player Diallo is today.
Right now, Hami is at his best as a spot-up shooter, and using his athleticism get to the rim in one or two dribbles. Diallo also does well using his athleticism to crash offensive boards. (Diallo has done particularly well in that area, averaging about one offensive rebound per game). Diallo also excels in transition, either taking the ball down court off of a defensive rebound, or running the floor for spot-up and/or lob opportunities.
For Diallo to take his game to the next level he needs to work on offensive counter moves, and maintaining his shooting splits from the field from last season. Doing these two things would solidify his existing role within the offense. It would also allow the coaching staff to design a few more opportunities each game for him to have the ball in his hands and initiate for others, which is currently a glaring weakness in his game.
Know Your Role
Diallo figures to compete for minutes at shooting guard and small forward this season. That means he will be fighting for minutes with Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Josh Jackson, and Jerami Grant. Barring injury, it’s highly unlikely Diallo plays himself into a starting role. For that to happen, Diallo would need to outplay this year’s No. 1 pick in Cade or one of the best rookies last season, in Bey.
With Jerami likely being the best player on the Pistons roster this season and a lock to start, that leaves Diallo jockeying for minutes with Josh Jackson, who, like Diallo, can play either wing spot interchangeably. Since both Jackson and Diallo can coexist, Diallo is fairly locked into a sixth or seventh man role with the team. In 24 games with the Pistons, Diallo played about 23 minutes per game. I would expect him to see fairly similar minutes this season.
From a utilization perspective, Diallo should have fairly clear offensive and defensive responsibilities this season. Offensively, Diallo won’t be asked to bring the ball up in half court settings or initiate for others. He also doesn’t figure to be a primary option on the first or second unit. With Jackson providing more reliable shooting, I also doubt there are very many quicker hitter plays drawn up for him. Instead, Hami will play off the ball and will focus on finding passing pockets to sit in for jump shots and slashes to the basket. Defensively, Hami should be asked to guard some of the better offensive players on the opposing team.
Diallo’s playing time and utilization are the perfect foundation to prove/disprove that he is in the right role, and playing an appropriate amount of minutes per game. For a player in Diallo’s resume, this figures to be a very desirable position to be in.