The 2018 NBA Africa Game could be the launching pad for New Orleans Pelicans power forward Cheick Diallo, who will lace up for Team Africa against Team World in Pretoria on August 4.
Mali's Diallo will be given a chance to show African fans that there is more to his game than his limited minutes suggest, averaging 4.9 points per game per 11 minutes over the past season.
The 21-year-old is fresh off his sophomore season in the NBA, which saw him help the Pelicans reach the Playoffs before succumbing to eventual champions the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference semifinals.
Diallo has grown into a useful option for the Pelicans off the bench, recording three double-doubles and 21 blocks in 52 games this past season. He has come a long way from being a fairly under-utilised player in his rookie season (where he played only 17 games) to being called upon more frequently in his second stint.
At 6ft9in, Diallo is a physical player whose defense is showing signs of improving. His rebounding was even more impressive, especially in games where he was given an extended period on the floor. He recorded 9 points in only 12 minutes and 40 seconds on the road against the Denver Nuggets in November.
He then recorded 13 points and 15 rebounds in a road win against the Dallas Mavericks in March. The month of March was an impressive one for the Malian as he notched a season high 17 points at home against one of the league's best road teams, the Boston Celtics.
In that memorable win he displayed his versatile scoring options as he dunked, took perimeter shots, and made a number of lay ups. The next game against the Mavericks, he recorded 10 points and 14 rebounds, he had scored double digit tallies in consecutive games for the first time in the season.
Another personal highlight of his season was his performance on the road against the top seeded Houston Rockets. Although they lost against James Harden and co., he notched 15 points, missing only one of six field goal attempts in 25 minutes on the floor, including a block on Harden in the third quarter.
He is also a pretty good shooter for a player of his size, given he averaged 58 percent in the field goal category. Most players who average a high field goal percentage usually rely on dunks but Diallo has a mid-range jumper which will continue to improve as he progresses.
Diallo will be making his NBA Africa debut and local fans can expect a decent showing from the ever-improving player. Appearing in 52 games in a Playoffs-chasing team is an indication of the trust that Alvin Gentry has in Diallo's abilities, and he is a player on the rise.