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Thunder General Manager has always looked sharp. From his haircut to his frames, to his perfectly pressed suits. Sam Presti is a perfectionist through and through. This is no secret for anyone who really keeps a remote tabs on the NBA. Those people also know the Thunder haven’t exactly been flushing themselves with quality draft picks the last few years.

Enter: Hamidou Diallo.

Even then, Diallo wasn’t drafted by the Thunder. Because he was taken earlier than the Thunder wanted. Had the former Kentucky Wildcat dropped to 53, the Thunder were going to draft him. Diallo is the first player the Thunder have acquired on draft night that may be a legitimate pick since Steven Adams.

Since Steven Adams was drafted, the Thunder have taken six other players in the draft. Only Terrance Ferguson (2017 draft, 21st overall) remains on the Thunder’s roster. Diallo looks to break that trend. Nothing was more obvious than last night’s 18 points on 7-of-7 shooting against the Sacramento Kings. Diallo became the first rookie in Thunder history to go perfect from the floor on at least seven shots.

“It’s good for shots to go in, it opens things up,” Diallo said. “It starts off first with my teammates putting me in position and believing in me and my coaches as well.”

Diallo originally declared for the NBA draft as a freshman at Kentucky. However, after discussions with head coach John Calipari and others, he stayed at Kentucky for another season. The returning to Kentucky didn’t appear to be as fruitful as expected for Diallo but it’s finally starting to pay off, as the Thunder and Diallo appear to be a good fit for one another.

“He [Diallo] has got star talent, he’s got star potential in him. The kid plays like he’s been playing ball in this league for years,” said George. “He has a good understanding, a good feel for the game.”

Diallo dropped to 45th overall in the 2018 draft. Sure, it’s not where he wanted but It’s a low risk high reward for both teams. Diallo shows he’s an NBA talent that deserved to go in the lottery and the Thunder get a player who is going to help in the long term. We all see it. Diallo’s Minutes through the first half of the season were 14.0 minutes per game. Since? His minutes have shot up. Diallo’s 14.4 minutes per game, and increasing, is on pace to average the most minutes for a rookie since Steven Adams (16.4) in the 2014-15 season.

“I think Hami has a lot of myself in him,” George said. “When I look at Hami, I see a lot of how I used to play and how I approached the game. Heck of a talent. He has got that star power in him. I think with him, it’s just he has to continue to go through the learning curve and that’s on us to help him get to his potential.”

Diallo can shoot. He’s explosive off the dribble and he knows how to defend. While he’s no Andre Roberson. He could be that missing piece off the bench the Thunder have been missing at the two spot since the departure of James Harden.

Under Armour has seen it. They’ve already signed the rookie to a shoe deal.

As teams scout him and the Thunder, his adjustment is going to more key to the Thunder than just his success.

“Hami’s just a ballplayer,” veteran Paul George said at shootaround before that game. “He still finds a way to get to the rim, make plays.”

The chances are less than 10 percent a bottom 15 pick makes an indention on a roster. Most who played “decent” minutes aren’t on rosters anymore. They’re flashes in the pan. Semaj Christon played 15 minutes per game, but really it was out of necessity. He’s no longer in the NBA.

For Diallo, he just needs that one opportunity. It appears with the Thunder’s he’s going to get that one shot.

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Chuck Chaney

Founder & Editor-in-Chief.
Member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.