New Orleans -- Cheick Diallo saw a huge bump in playing time last season after DeMarcus Cousins suffered a torn Achilles. He went from averaging about 7 minutes per game in the first 4 months, to more than 14 a game to close out the regular season.
"I feel like a lot of people say I look different every year," Diallo said. "My rookie year, my second year and I'm 21 now. I feel like every year I'm improving a lot. I feel like I"m getting better every year now."
"One of the things that was holding him back from playing time was his defense," said Pelicans summer league head coach Kevin Hanson. "We spent a lot of time working on that and it's hard to do without playing minutes. Young players need to play through mistakes and he didn't have the luxury of doing that early in the season."
Even with the increased playing experience though, the coaches wanted him to get even more reps under his belt heading into his 3rd season in the league.
"He still hasn't even played an NBA full season games-wise, so the more he can play the better it is for him," Hanson said. "That's one thing he lacks is just plain experience and this is the best way we can do it. We've been working on a lot of different things and hopefully it shows out in summer league. If not, it'll show out in the regular season."
Diallo will turn 22 in September, and brings a youthful energy to the court every day. He's eager to improve his skill-set but not letting-on just yet what he's working-on.
"Yeah, it's true," Diallo said. "It's kind of a secret. I'm not going into all the details now but you all are going to see in the summer league. You're definitely going to see in the summer league. I'm expanding my game, a little bit of everything now but right now I can't talk about it right now. I want you guys to see with your own eyes."
"The kid wants to be great and you've got to appreciate that work ethic," Hanson said. "He's the hardest working guy on our team and he's going to get there."
As he progressed this past season, he learned a lot from the veterans on the team, especially Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins, who just left the Pelicans on Monday in the free agency frenzy.
"Now we got two players gone now," Diallo said. "We've got [Cousins] and Rondo gone now so I feel like we're going to be a different team next year. It's kind of tough now. That's not my place to talk about it, especially with Rondo and [Cousins] but it's kind of business."