We have gotten to know a
Lamine Diane is a 6’7, super athletic wing/forward, that scores, rebounds, and has the tools to defend at a high level. On paper, what’s not to like about that? He’s projected to go late second round or potentially even undrafted for a reason, however. Watching the tape, it’s not hard to pinpoint the limitations that make front offices hesitant to draft him. We’ll get into those potential shortcomings in more detail later but let’s start with the positives.
The good, the bad, the ugly with Diane’s offense
Diane can put the ball in the hoop and do it often. And he can do it pretty much anyway the situation calls for with flips, scoops, up-and-unders, floaters, and hooks. He was largely unguardable on post-ups at the mid-Major level and displayed great footwork and timing on spin-moves, euro-steps, pump-fakes, rip-throughs, and even a few “Dream Shakes.”
His creativity around the rim reminded me of Antawn Jamison. And before I get any hate in the comments, I’m not saying I think he will be anywhere near the player Jamison was. I’m simply saying that you don’t see many players who display such a diverse arsenal when it comes to finishing around the rim.
Diane averaged around 26 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks this year. No one can deny he was one of the most productive players in college basketball. The biggest question is whether that production will translate to the NBA level. He was too quick and explosive for most big men in the Big West Conference and they struggled to contain his first step.
Equally, he was too long (7’1 wingspan) and physical for smaller players to match-up with, which led to him shooting an insane 73-percent around the rim. In the rare event he did miss, he relentlessly followed his shot and cleaned up his own misses. No one at that level had the second jump to keep him off the offensive boards when he was determined. He would also be impressive running the fast break next to John Wall and give him another athletic finisher.
The other big concern is his jump-shot. There’s really no nice way to say this but it looks pretty wonky and considerably different depending on where on the floor he’s shooting from. Sometimes it’s way over his head, sometimes its further in front of his body, sometimes his elbow is pointed way out, and sometimes he frog-kicks his legs the way Caleb Martin used to when he was at the University of Nevada.
A lot of times, the shooting form is discouraging but the player shoots high enough percentages that you might be willing to ignore what your eyes tell you. Well, that’s not the case with Diane. He made 29 percent of his threes this season on three attempts per game. Free throw shooting is typically a good indicator of long-term shooting potential and Diane’s 67-percent isn’t enough to inspire a lot of confidence. He does get to the free throw line a lot though, which NBA teams will like.
I’ve seen several interviews with Diane where he claims he was a much better shooter in high school but a shoulder injury hampered his development as a perimeter shooter during his college career. According to Diane, he is finally healthy and has seen some incremental progress as his condition improved. Even if he was better pre-injury, he will still need to prove it at the next level where the line is much farther away.
That being said, there’s still a lot to like. There’s a certain point in the draft (probably late second round) where I’d be willing to take a shot on Diane just for his defensive potential. Obviously, the Wizards don’t have a pick that late but something tells me a draft choice in the 50’s would come pretty cheaply in this particularly draft. I think the Wizards should at least be open to the idea.
Adding defense and rebounding to the bench
Diane’s just a really tough basketball player. And if he ever does shoot it effectively, his two-way potential would be really intriguing. His length and bounce led to some highlight reel blocked shots this year. Diane was not scared to meet guys at the rim and showed good patience, timing, and discipline as a shot-blocker.
Cal State Northridge primarily played him at power forward this year but he guarded practically every position throughout the season. Depending on what the team needed, he would try to stop a quicker wing from penetrating one game or take on a burly low-post scoring center the next. It’s not often you see a player jump for the opening tip-off and then end up guarding multiple positions throughout the course of the same game.
His defensive versatility, rebounding, and ball-handling combination would be intriguing at the next level. Potentially, he could reasonably guard whoever he is switched onto, rebound the ball, and push it transition himself. Given the pace modern offenses like to play at, that skill combo could make him a real asset as a small-ball power forward in the NBA. Playing in the second unit next to a shooting center like Moritz Wagner would help offset his shooting concerns and provide some rebounding to offset some of Wagner’s shortcomings.
This isn’t necessarily the highest bar but I would prefer Diane’s skill-set over someone like Isaac Bonga. Bonga has more potential as a creator for others but otherwise I’m not sure what he would do better than Diane. Sorry, if I just offended the diehard members of the Bonga fan club but I’m still not sold on his long-term role in the NBA.
Diane loafed at times on defense but it’s easy to attribute that to the massive offensive burden he had to carry. The physical tools are there to be a really good defender and he’s stronger than someone like Bonga at this point. Neither one of them is much of a perimeter shooter but Diane can at least score in other ways.
He’s also a much more physical and aggressive rebounder, which the Wizards could certainly use. That assertiveness is something I would like to see more of from many of the Wizards’ bench players. During interviews, it would be important to make sure that he understands that his NBA role would be much different and that he won’t have anywhere near the same usage rate.
Diane is actually two years older than Bonga, which teams won’t love, but he was a late-comer to the sport and that leads me to believe there’s still untapped upside there. Bonga has also been the recipient of NBA coaching and has had the benefit of playing against pros for the last two years.
Diane was stuck in the Mountain West and I think playing against stiffer competition will actually help him hone his game (like refining his shot selection, more consistent defensive effort, etc.). But even if he maxes out as a G League All-Star, he’d be pretty low risk to acquire and certainly not the type of acquisition we should hold against Tommy Sheppard.
His range seems to be anywhere from mid-second round to undrafted. Flashes of the aforementioned potential might lead to a team drafting him in the second round but his jumper may scare plenty of others away. Like a lot of the prospects in this range, shooting will be the swing skill that decides his NBA future. It’s just too hard to have non-shooters on the floor unless they’re really special in other ways.
To me, Diane is one of the players who would have benefitted the most from in-person workouts against other prospects. It would have been a chance for him to show NBA teams that his production wasn’t just because of the competition, or lack thereof, in the Mountain West. He is also one of the rare prospects who appears bigger than his college measurements so being left out of the virtual NBA combine could cost him an opportunity to improve his stock.
If Diane ends up being a solid perimeter shooter for his career (and that’s still a big “if”), I think he will wind up being a real steal. Coming from Senegal, he hasn’t been playing basketball at a high-level for all that long and he seems to be a hard worker. I’d roll the dice on him with a late second round pick, if there was a reasonably affordable way to acquire one.
I would love to see the Wizards offer him a Two-way contract if he goes undrafted, although I expect plenty of other teams will attempt to do the same.