Detroit Pistons’ addition of Hamidou Diallo further establishes team’s identity

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II | Detroit Free Press

Troy Weaver‘s ongoing “restoring” of the Detroit Pistons hasn’t just given the team an overhauled roster. It’s given them a defined identity.

At all five positions, they have long, athletic players with plus wingspans and strong defensive instincts.

The Pistons are being built to thrive in the modern NBA, which rewards lineups that stretch the floor and have multiple players who can handle diverse defensive assignments. Their latest trade, which sent Svi Mykhailiuk and a second-round pick to Oklahoma City for Hamidou Diallo, brought them a little closer to having an entire roster that fits that mold.

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Diallo, a second-round pick in 2018, is a 6-foot-5 wing with a massive 7-foot wingspan. He’s one of the league’s best athletes at his position and is already a good, versatile defender.

The Pistons are banking that he has more to show.

“He’s a wing defender, can guard 1-3, the smaller 4s,” head coach Dwane Casey said Saturday. “Excellent wing runner. Is quick, athletic, probably one of the most athletic wings in the league. Needs to continue to work on his 3-point shooting, which is what our league is about. Defensively, he’ll step right in as one of our top defenders and does a great job of doing that.

“He has a wingspan out of this world, anticipates well and he competes on every possession,” Casey continued. “Young kid, 22. He fits right in to our schedule with the rest of our team.”

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THE DETAILS: Pistons trade Mykhailiuk, pick to Thunder for Diallo

In 32 games this season, Diallo is averaging 11.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and a steal in 23.8 minutes per game — all career highs. He’s hitting just 29.2% of his 3-pointers, but he doesn’t take very many of them (41 total attempts this season) and is much more efficient at the rim, where he does most of his scoring damage.

He’s taken 40.1% of his shots 3 feet from the rim or closer, according to Basketball-Reference, and is making such shots at a 69.7% clip. Diallo is shifty with a quick first step, is skilled at catching defenders off-balance and has soft touch around the rim.

But his best attribute is his defense. Opponents scored 4.2 fewer points per possession when Diallo was on the floor with the Thunder this season, per Cleaning the Glass. That rate ranked in the 78th percentile across all wings. He’s been a key part of a Thunder defense that has outperformed their poor record this season.

He’s an upgrade defensively over Mykhailiuk — a respectable defender in his own right, but not one with Diallo’s physical gifts and upside on that end of the floor. The Pistons will prioritize helping Diallo improve as a shooter, which is a clear weakness in his game right now. He’s one of the lowest-volume 3-point shooting wings in the league, and is a nonthreat from outside.

“He fits in from the toughness standpoint, but we still need to continue to improve our shooting because this league is a 3-point shooting league,” Casey said.” And I think he will do that because he’s a worker, our coaches work relentlessly and I think they’ve done an excellent job with Saben (Lee) from that standpoint.

“He will fit right in with us from a toughness, defensive standpoint and he’s a kid that you don’t have to say giddy-up to, he’s ready to go as soon as he steps on the floor.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.

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