Detroit Pistons Writer
Over the past few seasons, the Detroit Pistons have loaded their roster with young talent. 12 players on the Pistons’ roster are aged 24 or younger.
Some young players have already established their roles in head coach Dwane Casey’s lineups, while others are continuing to earn their spot.
This past season, Hamidou Diallo was one of the players who had to work their way into Detroit’s rotation. Diallo did not appear in six of Detroit’s first 12 contests of the 2021-22 season. Casey opted to play Josh Jackson over Diallo early on. When Diallo did play during that span, it was in limited minutes. The Kentucky product averaged 12.8 minutes per game through Detroit’s first 12 games of the season.
As the season progressed Diallo earned minutes. Injuries opened up more opportunities for the young wing, and his performances kept him in the lineup. After six games with limited minutes, Diallo averaged 22.9 minutes throughout the rest of the season.
The 24-year-old was a spark plug off the bench for the Pistons last season. Despite being a poor three-point shooter, Diallo was a dangerous off-ball weapon for Detroit. He possesses elite-level athleticism. On the defensive end, Diallo brought a high intensity and the ability to guard four positions.
Diallo averaged 11 points and 4.8 rebounds per game with Detroit this past season. He went from outside of Detroit’s rotation to the team’s sixth man off the bench.
This upcoming season, Diallo could once again have to earn his place in Detroit’s rotation. At the end of last season, Diallo was figured to be an obvious inclusion in the Pistons’ second unit; however, with the team’s recent offseason acquisitions, that spot is no longer a guarantee.
Hamidou Diallo’s competition
While the Pistons do not have a lot of depth on the wing, the team has two players who could seriously contend with Diallo for the second-unit wing positions.
The Pistons acquired Alec Burks in a trade with the New York Knicks this offseason. Burks is a reliable veteran wing with the versatility to play multiple positions. He has the handle and playmaking chops to play point guard, and he has the size and length to play small forward.
Isaiah Livers came to Detroit as a second-round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. The University of Michigan product figures to play a much larger role with the Pistons this upcoming season now that he is healthy. Despite only appearing in 19 games as a rookie, Livers flashed his potential as a high-end three-and-D wing. His performance in Summer League continued to cement his increased role.
While neither player has the same level of athleticism as Diallo, both Burks and Livers are much better shooters. Burks shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc for the second straight season in 2021-22. In his limited sample size last season, Livers shot 42.2 percent on three-point attempts, most of which came off the catch-and-shoot. Detroit ranked 29th in three-point shooting percentage this past season. Burks and Livers are going to be key contributors to improving that number in 2022-23.
Is Hamidou Diallo the odd man out?
Diallo’s ultimate fate this upcoming season will come down to who makes the Pistons’ starting lineup. With the departure of Jerami Grant this offseason, the Pistons have a void at the starting power forward position.
Livers is one of the players in contention to replace Grant in the starting lineup. The 24-year-old’s unselfish style of play would perfectly complement the rest of Detroit’s projected starters. He will not demand the ball and he will bring energy and communication on defense.
If Livers earns a place in the starting lineup, Diallo will have an established spot in the Pistons’ second unit. Marvin Bagley III replacing Grant in the starting lineup could also open up space for Diallo as Livers would slide up to the backup power forward spot.
However, If Isaiah Stewart transitions to the starting power forward spot, Hamidou Diallo is going to have to outperform two solid three-and-D wings for a place in the Pistons’ rotation.
(Featured Image Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)