Bill Self coached one of the players the Pelicans took in last week’s NBA draft. He coached against another.
And it’s safe to say the Kansas coach is a fan of New Orleans’ decision to take his freshman forward Cheick Diallo in the second round to pair with Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield, which it selected in the first.
“Buddy and Cheick together definitely changes whatever culture you have from a work standpoint,” Self said Saturday. “It elevates it, because they are both workers. They are both workers.”
Self recruited Hield four years ago and raved about the shooting guard’s progression from a talented athlete to a complete offensive player.
He’s even more familiar with Diallo, who played sparingly in his one season with the Jayhawks. Diallo missed Kansas’ first five games as the NCAA reviewed his academic eligibility, and though he played double-digit minutes in three of his first five games, he did so in just one of his final 10.
Diallo didn’t play at all in Kansas’ final three NCAA tournament games.
Mostly, Self said, Diallo was a victim of a numbers crunch. Kansas used five forwards opposite frontcourt fixture Perry Ellis. As his team struggled in January, Self shortened his rotation and went primarily with 22-year-old Landen Lucas.
Diallo, who averaged 3 points and 2.5 rebounds in 7.5 minutes at Kansas, was behind in college and will have some catching up to do in the NBA as well. And though Self said he wants “everybody to be excited” about Diallo in New Orleans, he cautions that the No. 33 overall pick has limited basketball experience.
His contributions early might be hard to spot at game time.
“I think what (Pelicans coach) Alvin (Gentry) and the staff are counting on is that he brings an energy level that definitely impacts practice, impacts others, raises the culture from an energy standpoint,” Self said. “I think he can do that. I think he’ll be great at that.”
For now, Self said, Diallo’s biggest in-game impact likely will be as a rebounder rim protector. But he said NBA teams were impressed with Diallo’s jump shot, which extends to about 17 feet, and Self said Diallo has the chance to turn into a two-way contributor.
“The Pelicans got a lottery pick at 33,” Self said. “If he’d have stayed one more year — and I’m not saying he should have — he’s a top 10 pick.”
As the Pelicans prepare for their NBA Summer League opener on July 8, their summer roster is falling into place.
Hield and Diallo will play for New Orleans in Summer League, Gentry said this week, and a source on Saturday confirmed that the Pelicans have signed guards Anthony “Cat” Barber, K.T. Harrell and Larry Drew II, center Alex Olah and forward Nick Minnerath to their summer squad.
Barber, 21, averaged 23.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists as a junior at N.C. State, where he scored 1,507 points in three seasons.
Drew, who played three seasons at North Carolina before transferring to UCLA for his senior year in 2012-13, played for the Pelicans’ Summer League team last season, averaging 9 points and a league-high 7.8 assists per game.
Harrell, who played three collegiate seasons at Virginia and one at Auburn, averaged 5.3 points per game for the Philadelphia 76ers’ Summer League team last year before signing to play in Turkey.
Olah, a 7-foot center, just completed a four-year career at Northwestern, where he averaged 11.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots per game as a senior.
Minnerath, who played three collegiate seasons at Detroit, played for the Nets’ Summer League team in 2014 and was in camp with Cleveland last fall but was waived after playing in three preseason games. He spent last season with the NBA Developmental League’s Canton Charge. He averaged 18.5 points per game for the Charge and was named to the All-NBA D-League second team.
As the Pelicans work to retool their roster this offseason, Gentry said he has a “fine” relationship with Danny Ferry, the special adviser hired in part to help New Orleans do that.
Ferry, who will work part-time in New Orleans but be based out of Atlanta, has been with the Pelicans in recent weeks as they worked out players in preparation for the draft and is consulting with the team on free agency.
“I’ve known Danny a long time,” Gentry said. “Actually he was kidding me because I watched him play in high school when he was at DeMatha (Catholic in Maryland). He’s an extremely bright guy. He’s here as a consultant to challenge us with ideas and things like that, and I think he’s done a great job with it.”