Why Hamidou Diallo can have ‘bright future’ with Pistons, according to Troy Weaver

Detroit Free Press

Hamidou Diallo was new to the Detroit Pistons when the organization acquired him from Oklahoma City in March. He wasn’t new to general manager Troy Weaver, though.

The Thunder had traded for Hamidou Diallo on draft night in 2018, while Weaver was still an assistant general manager there. Weaver had scouted him since he was a five-star recruit in high school, through Diallo’s time at Kentucky, and saw the first two seasons of his NBA career up close before taking over in Detroit.

Now, with restricted free agency approaching in August, Diallo and Weaver could be together for years to come.

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During his end-of-season news conference on Monday, Weaver signaled the team sees Diallo in its longterm plans. The Pistons have his Bird Rights, meaning they can match any outside offer and go over the salary cap to retain him.

“I told him a lot of players don’t get this opportunity to take the bull by the horn,” Weaver said. “He has that chance now to come in and really turn his career into a huge positive. He’s been teetering up and down in OKC, injuries here, the different construct of the team. Now he’s here with a young group. Hopefully we can get him, talk to him and continue him with the group.”

Diallo was a project coming out of Kentucky, but he moved into the Thunder’s rotation during his second season. His elite athleticism and long wingspan made him an attractive prospect. But it was his daily approach that endeared him to Weaver.

“Hami, he fits what we’re trying to do here,” Weaver said after the trade deadline in March. “Tremendous mindset, tremendous competitor. Defensive mindset, athletic. You can never have too many guys that have that mindset and that competitiveness and bring it every night. As we’re going through this process, we’re looking for those types of players. He fits the bill going forward for us. Tremendous young man. Very fortunate and excited to have him join the Pistons. Great things can come ahead with Hami.”

Diallo’s final six games of 2020-21 were a strong showcase for his potential. He averaged 18 points and 7.3 rebounds a game during that stretch, shooting 53.3% overall and 36.4% from 3. That span of games included a career-high 35 points on May 4 against the Charlotte Hornets, hitting 14 of 22 shots and four of six 3-pointers.

By giving up Svi Mykhailiuk and a future second-round pick to acquire Diallo, Weaver made it clear that Diallo was a player he coveted. Diallo was in the midst of the strongest season of his career prior to his arrival in Detroit.

Detroit was a different story, as Diallo described his first month with the Pistons as a “roller coaster.” A groin injury caused him to miss 12 games, including six immediately after the trade, before making his Pistons debut March 26. His first two weeks were promising, as he averaged 11.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per game on 55/50/82% shooting splits during his first eight games.

Then, he slumped for two weeks. From April 11-24, he averaged 3.3 points and 4.2 rebounds while putting up 18/20/50% shooting splits. (He missed two games during that span with knee soreness.)

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“I would say just the past couple games, like you said it’s been up and down,” Diallo said on April 26 after snapping his slump with a 14-point outing. “It’s just staying with the process, staying confident in myself, having people around me that’s confident in me. Just trying to get those easy ones to fall. Missing a lot of easy ones that’s definitely makeable. And just adapting to everything — adapting to the culture, adapting to our new atmosphere, adapting to the role. It’s all been tough, but it’s been great and it’s been a great learning experience. Trying to turn that page for sure.”

The season’s final two weeks were a return to form, and then some. Diallo takes a high percentage of his shots at the rim, and he becomes a freight train when he finds his rhythm. He also had the best 3-point shooting season of his career, knocking them down at a 34.1% clip.

Add in his consistent perimeter defense and strong rebounding into the equation, and it’s clear why the Pistons hope they can retain him next season and beyond.

“It’s a young group that he fits and we need his talents,” Weaver said. “If he can continue to buy into coach Casey’s system, which he did, I thought he got pretty comfortable toward the end, unfortunately had to miss a few games. He got comfortable and I think he can have a very bright future here in Detroit.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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