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OKC Thunder: Hamidou Diallo takes on unexpected title of longest-tenured player

Hamidou Diallo arrived at Thunder training camp this week as the team’s longest-tenured player.

“I didn’t even know that was a stat,” Diallo said, “but yeah, it’s definitely crazy.”

Especially considering Diallo is 22 with two years of NBA experience. But after the departures of Steven Adams, Andre Roberson, Terrance Ferguson and several others, Diallo is the only holdover from the Russell Westbrook and Paul George-led Thunder team of two seasons ago.

“It's great to be that person, especially knowing what this program brings, and knowing what this city is about,” Diallo said.

The New York City native was selected with the 45th pick in the 2018 draft after his redshirt freshman season at Kentucky. Diallo averaged 10 minutes per game as a rookie, and his playing time doubled in Year 2.

Now entering his third season, and the last year of his contract, the 6-foot-5 wing will likely see his role expand given the Thunder’s roster reconstruction. Diallo might even get the chance to start — something he’s done six times in his young career.

Diallo averaged 6.9 points and 3.6 rebounds in 46 games last season, but his sophomore campaign was interrupted from mid-November through the end of December due to a hyper-extension sprain in his right elbow.

“The most impressive thing about Hami has been his response to adversity,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “In each of his seasons he’s started training camp by earning a spot in the rotation, and in each of his seasons he’s had injuries in the middle of the year, and both of them were kind of freak things.

“And yet every single time you give Hami time and space he comes back better — be that from an injury or be that coming out of the hiatus heading to Orlando. He just has an incredible fortitude about him and it’s like every time he gets knocked down, not only does he get back up, which not everybody does, but he gets back up stronger and better.”

Diallo credited Daigneault for keeping him up.

“Every time I faced adversity he was always by my side whether it was sending me texts, or whether it was just keeping me focused and keeping me level headed,” Diallo said.

Diallo averaged 25 minutes per game in OKC’s eight seeding games in the Orlando bubble, but he lost his rotation spot once the playoffs started.

This year’s rotation is far from finalized. The Thunder still has roster questions to sort through even as training camp begins.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luguentz Dort, Darius Bazley and Al Horford are likely starters, which leaves an open spot on the wing.

Diallo, Trevor Ariza and Justin Jackson are all options Daigneault could turn to.

Diallo had the best defensive rating of the Thunder’s rotational players last season. OKC only allowed 101.9 points per 100 possessions with Diallo on the floor.

But the athletic guard has struggled offensively. He’s a career 24.7% 3-point shooter, though he improved from 16.7% to 28.1% from his rookie to sophomore year.

Almost 70% of Diallo’s field-goal attempts came from within 10 feet of the basket. He converted 51% of those shots.

“I do think there’s a lot of ceiling for him as a player,” Daigneault said, “but the spirit of who he is and the way that he responds to experiences is just so essential in a competitive environment.”

Diallo’s Thunder resume isn’t long — a grand total of 97 games — but that’s more than any other Thunder player has logged with the team.

Even entering the rebuild, there’s a certain standard Diallo wants to maintain.

“With all the guys that have left that had been here for a long time, that laid the platform out, that showed us what it means to wear these jerseys and play for this amazing city, there’s a tradition,” Diallo said, “that you have to keep putting forward for the new guys.”

Related Photos
<strong>Hamidou Diallo rises for a dunk against the Pelicans. Diallo, set to begin his third season, is the Thunder's longest-tenured player. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]</strong>

Hamidou Diallo rises for a dunk against the Pelicans. Diallo, set to begin his third season, is the Thunder's longest-tenured player. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-c7fe35c97efc23c716c47949d4eae9cf.jpg" alt="Photo - Hamidou Diallo rises for a dunk against the Pelicans. Diallo, set to begin his third season, is the Thunder's longest-tenured player. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] " title=" Hamidou Diallo rises for a dunk against the Pelicans. Diallo, set to begin his third season, is the Thunder's longest-tenured player. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Hamidou Diallo rises for a dunk against the Pelicans. Diallo, set to begin his third season, is the Thunder's longest-tenured player. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Joe Mussatto

Joe Mussatto joined The Oklahoman in August 2018 to cover OU football, men’s basketball and softball. He previously covered University of Kentucky football and basketball for SEC Country. Mussatto is from Oklahoma City and lives in Norman. Read more ›

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