It started with three eight points on Thursday night in a loss to his old team (Pelicans), continued with three straight makes early in the second quarter against the Wolves on Saturday to help the Suns maintain a lead toward their first win in more than a week.
But the dam really burst on Sunday, when little-used Cheick Diallo busted out for a career-high 36 minute and 22 points, plus 6 rebounds, a block and an assist in a closer-than-expected loss to Finals-contending Denver Nuggets on Sunday.
The 22-year old Diallo, who is long but has no “stretch” to his game, has been relegated to mopup duty early this year as the Suns employ stretch bigs to space the floor. All of Aron Baynes, Frank Kaminsky and Dario Saric average 4+ three point attempts per game to open up the driving lanes for the likes of Ricky Rubio, Devin Booker and Kelly Oubre Jr., while Diallo’s shooting range is barely longer than his wingspan.
But on Sunday, with Baynes out and the whole squad dead tired from a short-handed 5-games-in-7-days jaunt, Diallo provided surprising energy off the bench.
Watch the highlights here.
Diallo showed surprising touch on his shots, a level of offensive aggression and success not seen at all this preseason as he adjusted to a new team. And he barely showed that touch for the Pelicans his first few years either.
In three years in New Orleans, Diallo appeared in about 60% of their games and averaged just 5.5 points and 4.6 rebounds. His scoring area is barely outside the paint and, along with his one-handed push-shot jumpers, is quite reminiscent of Richaun Holmes from last year. New Orleans let him go last summer, allowing the Suns to sign him for the league minimum in July.
If Diallo can provide spark off the bench, he will get some minutes as the season wears on. It won’t be the same floor-stretching we are seeing but might give us a glimpse of an inside game again, not seen since the suspension of Deandre Ayton.
Cheick it out!