Diallo could give the Cavs offensive energy with his athleticism, driving, finishing versatility and off-ball play
Pertaining to the offensive end, Diallo is not a player who would project as helping Cleveland’s three-point shooting efforts.
For his career through five seasons, he’s shot 27.4 percent from three on only 1.1 attempts per outing. In the last two seasons with Detroit, that’s been 23.8 and previously 24.7 percent from deep on only 0.4 and before 1.6 attempts per contest. Point being, Diallo is not much of a catch-and-shoot threat.
However, for a 6-foot-5 wing, he’s proven to be a quality driver of the basketball, and his finishing has been great. With more consistent chances with the Detroit, he’s converted on 72.1 percent and 64.6 percent of his shots in the restricted area, per NBA.com’s shooting data.
Despite not being a catch-and-shoot player, Diallo does a terrific job of making quick decisions off the touch, and often can generate a half-step advantage to get defenders parallel to him, where his speed takes over. From there, he can finish with a variety of layups or lay-ins, and can finish through or around rotators’ verticality with his body control and power.
Paired with his finishing at the rim, Diallo has developed some counters to that, as he’s able to connect on short pull-ups from defenders anticipating his drives to the cup. And as an added layer to those, he has short flashes of being able to hit short fadeaways and runners.
Diallo is such an instinctive cutter, too, and avails himself well along the baseline in the quasi-dunker spot, and has the requisite feel and timing to make tangible use of diagonal cuts. He could work particularly well playing off of Evan Mobley and Donovan Mitchell with those aspects of his offensive game in mind.
Lastly, while it wouldn’t always be there with how the Cavs play, Diallo’s transition play could kickstart the Wine and Gold for stretches, also. His defensive ball pressure, rebounding abilities, coast-to-coast slashing and above-the-rim finishing are all areas that could help give the Cavaliers a spark throughout games.
Now, the lack of perimeter shooting is the glaring concern with Diallo as a possible free agency target for Cleveland, and in the last two seasons, his years have suffered an abrupt end because of a right ankle sprain and an avulsion fracture in his left index finger. In the past three seasons, he’s appeared in 56, 58 and 52 games (the 2020-21 campaign was one of the two COVID-19-affected seasons, in fairness).
Those things aside, if the Cavaliers were to bring in perimeter shooting via trade, for example, or free agency, adding an energy wing like Diallo could prove to be a great addition to Cleveland’s bench. If one or two of the likes of Isaac Okoro, Dean Wade and Lamar Stevens were to be playing elsewhere, which might be for the best for Cleveland, Diallo could potentially end up being an upgrade over those defensive wings with more offensive upside as an on-ball player as well.
Diallo has improved since his last time in free agency, but is not necessarily a player who could be generating tons of traction as a free agent target; he was on a bad Pistons team, too, as an aside. He could be a solid Cavaliers signing with maybe some of the $12.2 million Nontaxpayer Mid-Level Exception. His last deal was for two years and $10.4 million with the Pistons, so perhaps Diallo could be attainable with a deal this next go-around in the $7-9 million per year range; if that’s the case, the Cavs should consider pursuing him.