We never really saw Diallo get started at KU

By Steve Sell
May 18, 2016

Wednesday’s ramblings...

• DIALLO NOW A PRO — Cheick Diallo made it official this past weekend that he won’t be returning to the University of Kansas basketball team as he’s staying in the NBA draft.

Thus the truncated book is closed on a player who dripped with potential, but spent most of his Jayhawk career anchored to the bench.

Remember all the hype surrounding the 6-9 McDonald’s All-American, who reportedly has a wingspan of a player 7-4? He was going to be the missing piece to the championship puzzle with his unrelenting motor and array of dunks around the basket.

The NCAA, however, intervened and parked Diallo for five games, setting off a wave of protest from KU fans. When he finally was able to play, it was a mixed bag as he clearly was rusty.

Yes, he was outrageously athletic with an ability to run the floor and block shots. Offensively, though, he was light-years from being NBA-ready. Unless he was dunking, he appeared to be somewhat lost with the ball in his hands and quite frankly, Bill Self didn’t trust him in high-leverage situations. 

The way Diallo performed at the NBA Combine, however, makes you wonder if Self perhaps miscalculated. Diallo was one of the eye-openers, if you read the analysts’ comments. He did as much for himself to improve his stock as any player there. 

In Self’s defense, who would Diallo have taken minutes from? Perry Ellis, his last-game disappearance notwithstanding, was KU’s go-to player. Landen Lucas was the most improved Jayhawk. You knew what you were going to get with Jamari Traylor and that was boundless energy and effort. Then there was Carlton Bragg, whose offensive game is college-ready, though he was a bit of a defensive liability.

So really, Diallo was stuck in no-man’s land. I really wish he would have come back for one more year, because he’s losing a ton of money by entering now. He would have been the 5-man for KU no question this season and could have been a Top 10 pick in 2017. Now he’s going to be in the late 20s or early 30s — and he’ll probably play just a few minutes a game, if any. Look for a lot of DNPs-Coach’s decision or some time in the CBA.

• 76ERS WIN LOTTERY — The Philadelphia 76ers, perhaps the No. 1 clown show of all professional sports franchises, can’t possibly screw this up, can they?

The 76ers won the NBA Lottery on Tuesday, which means that Ben Simmons of LSU should fall into their laps.

But will they drop him?

Simmons looked bored in his one year at LSU, which was nothing more than the obligatory one-year requirement. At times he looked like the second coming of Magic or LeBron, a big man with the ability to handle the ball like a point guard. He’s an awful shooter, though, and has to score by driving to the basket.

Yet, most NBA scouts believe he’s can’t-miss. The 76ers, my favorite team when I started watching the NBA in 1965 because of Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Luke Jackson, Chet Walker, Wah-Wah Jones and Billy Cunningham, won all of 10 games this year. Some of the brain-cramp decisions the franchise has made in recent years have led to their demise, not to mention some rotten luck. They drafted KU’s Joel Embiid two years ago and he’s never played due to a myriad of injuries.

The LA Lakers got the second pick last night, which should garner them Duke’s Brandon Ingram. When you look at the draft list this year, it’s light on players that should make an immediate impact because it’s littered with freshmen and sophomores. That’s really what the NBA is all about anymore, potential. No wonder the league has fallen off dramatically in terms of talent, especially big men.