Mamadi Diakite, a four-year player at Virginia, joined the Bucks on a two-way contract after going undrafted this past offseason. The 6’9” forward was moved to the G-League bubble last month, alongside Bucks rookies Jordan Nwora and Sam Merrill, in order to get some playing time. The three youngsters all played for separate G-League teams since the Bucks’ affiliate (the Wisconsin Herd) declined participating in the bubble. To his credit, Diakite dedicated himself to producing in the G-League, showing off his defensive instincts, length and athleticism, quickness, and floor stretching ability.
Bucks Twitter had been in a tizzy for Diakite for some time now, and one particularly industrious G-League aficionado had connected some of the dots last night. Here’s what we wrote about him back in November:
Diakite, 23, is a defensive specialist with NBA size and speed. He boasts a 7’3” wingspan, and although his statistical profile is unimpressive at first glance, he was an integral part of Virginia’s championship efforts and has been widely considered to be worthy of two-way consideration at the professional level.
So, what does this mean? In all honesty, it means that instead of playing starter-level minutes against G-League competition, Diakite is likely to play garbage time minutes in a handful of Milwaukee Bucks games. There has been a huge spike in Brook Lopez criticism lately (in my opinion, a fair portion of it unwarranted and misguided), and a certain subsection of the Bucks fanbase is interested in giving Diakite a rotation-level workload. Some are even claiming that he should start, and that Brook Lopez should be benched, or traded, or even waived.
Here’s the problem: a dozen productive games in the G-League does not mean that a player is NBA-ready, especially when that player spent 4 years in the NCAA and was determined to not be worth the investment of a draft pick by all 30 NBA teams. Diakite has interesting tools and admittedly has surpassed expectations in the G-League, and the Bucks could always benefit from finding a diamond in the rough. But there’s a difference between optimism and...whatever is currently surrounding Mamadi Diakite on Twitter. Hope? Blind faith? Conviction? Folly?
One thing we can all agree on is that Diakite has proven that he can play, both in college and in the developmental league. Can he make positive contributions to a team that is serious about their playoff prospects? Is it fair to expect him to even get the opportunity, or assume that his previous success will translate to the NBA? The outlook is murky at this point, and the most likely result is that hyped up Diakite fans will end up disappointed.
Then again, it’s fun to dream, and Diakite becoming an NBA-level talent would be a fun surprise indeed.