The Oklahoma City Thunder have seen a surprising start out of Hamidou Diallo this season. After a pair of twenty point efforts in the Big Apple, what can we expect from Diallo moving forward? Is this just a flash in the pan? Are we all way too excited about the longest-tenured Thunder player? What is happening?!
It is clear, a pair of 20-plus-point efforts will result in deceptive per game numbers this early in the season, but for Hamidou Diallo he is averaging 12 points (a career-high, his previous high being 7 points a year ago) an assist, five rebounds, and a steal per game. Diallo has only scored 20-plus points three times in his career, and this season, he has already reached double-figures five times along with three more nine-point efforts.
If you remove the first four games of the season for Hamidou Diallo (which does include a 13 point effort against the Orlando Magic on 6-of-9 shooting) Diallo is averaging 14.7 points per game, five rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal per game. In this stretch, he is shooting 63-percent from the floor, and only attempting 1.3 triples per game (4-percent). In this stretch, Diallo is getting to the line four times a contest which is unlocking a new scoring level for the 22-year-old.
I know what you are thinking, throwing out his first four games, three of which were the worst games he has played this season, seems like me just cherry-picking to fit a narrative. Well, maybe, but there is a reason I through out the first four.
Hamidou Diallo came into the season as the longest-tenured Thunder player, and from the moment he reported to training camp it was clear the pride he took in that fact. Then, Mark Daigneault made him the leader of the team’s bench unit, featuring him in a point guard role to start the year with the second group. It was clear in those first four games Hamidou Diallo was pressing. No, not defensively, he was just playing out of sorts. Forcing his shots, trying to put the pressure of the teams’ success on both ends firmly on his shoulders.
After those first four games, something clicked with Hamidou Diallo. I know what many thought, they instantly rolled their eyes let out a huge sigh, and said “Finally!” but while the former-second round pick has been in Oklahoma City longer than anyone on the roster, and unlike most second-round picks, has always been in the team’s rotation when healthy, he is still just 22 years old! As Mark Daigneault always says “Progression is not linear.”
While the 20 point nights will grab all the headlines, some of Diallo’s best work came from games in which he did not even crack double digits. With Diallo, it isn’t about the stat sheet, it is about how he gets to those numbers in the box score next to his name.
The first huge positive for him throughout this scoring hot streak is that he has done it genuinely. What I mean by that is, he has utilized his repeatable talents. Not relying on jumpers to fall, or having a hot stretch from beyond the arc. Hamidou Diallo is getting to this production level with effective drives to the rim, and picking his spots well for when to utilize a surprisingly effective elbow jumper.
The main reason why I am buying into the production from Diallo is his decision making. There was a moment against the Lakers that Diallo had an open lane to the basket, and the old Diallo would simply attack that opening at will and just hope the defense did not rotate properly. However, this year we are seeing Diallo think beyond his own athleticism. On this play, instead of attacking the rim which I could almost feel to my core that he was about to do, he kicks it out to the corner behind him to a wide-open Mike Muscala.
Muscala missed the shot, just as Diallo could’ve missed the chance at the rim if the Lakers defense rotates properly, but in 2021 the right play is always to give Mike Muscala a wide-open corner three. He will make more than he misses as he is shooting almost 40-percent from deep (which would be even more inflated without his 1-for-7 game from deep this season), 3’s are worth more than 2’s.
This is not the first time I have bought into Hamidou Diallo. In fact, long-time readers and listeners of mine know I am constantly convincing myself of Diallo’s talents. However, this time feels different. Am I going to be wrong again? Am I just that crazy ex-partner that always gives too many second chances? We will find out soon!
Are you buying or selling Hamidou Diallo’s new found production?