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What does Hamidou Diallo's future hold?

Hamidou Diallo swung back and forth, gripping the rim in the crook of his right arm. With his feet off the ground, Diallo reached for the center of his OKC jersey and pulled it apart, revealing a Superman logo on his chest.

Diallo had just flown over 7-foot-1 Shaquille O’Neal for the honey dip dunk that became the highlight of his NBA dunk contest victory. It was Feb. 16, and the 20-year-old rookie had played a total of 2 1/2 minutes in the Thunder’s previous five games.

“It was a fun experience,” he said of the dunk contest. “I really don't even think about it that much no more. But it was fun while it lasted.”

Diallo began the season consistently, out-performing expectations of the No. 45 overall draft pick. His athletic feats as a regular rotation player earned him a place in the dunk contest over All-Star weekend. But he, like so many before him, hit the proverbial “rookie wall.” By the unofficial second half of the season, most of Diallo’s playing time came in stints with the Thunder’s G League affiliate.

“It was tough,” Diallo said. “I mean, I'm a competitor, so of course I wanted to compete. But in this league you've got to be ready for anything at any given time, and sometimes you face adversity. But you still have to learn how to fight through and learn how to push through, and that's what I did for most of the year, and I was fine, pretty much, for most of the year.”

Diallo still has plenty of untapped potential. The Thunder has seen this past year with Terrance Ferguson what a difference a year in the NBA can make.

At the beginning of the season, Diallo started to earn more playing time than starting shooting guard Ferguson, who began the season in a shooting slump.

When Ferguson missed two games in mid-November for the birth of his daughter, Diallo earned back-to-back starts. In the second, a 117-113 loss at Sacramento, Diallo made all seven of his shots to score a career-high 18 points. The next game, Diallo was taken off the court on a stretcher with a sprained ankle. He missed five games.

After returning from injury, Diallo never regained the consistency he had in the beginning of the season. Similar to Diallo's only season at Kentucky, the league began to adjust to his tendencies.

Even during Diallo’s hot start, Thunder coach Billy Donovan warned of the ups and downs young players inevitably go through.

“To expect those guys to be consistent performers night in and night out I think is totally unrealistic,” Donovan said in late October of Diallo and Ferguson. “Because they’re going to need to build up the stamina to be a consistent player night in and night out.”

Diallo has a pivotal offseason ahead of him. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow a month ago, but he said he’ll be ready for Summer League. He plans to spend most of the summer in Oklahoma City.

“Just going out there defending the best player every night and showing that I'm capable to do that at a high level,” Diallo said of his focus for Summer League. “And just showing what I've been working on for the summer, if it's ball handling, shooting. I'm going to work on everything in the summer."

If he achieves that, he could be back to impersonating Superman next season.

Related Photos
<strong>Oklahoma City's Hamidou Diallo will work on several skill sets this summer with hopes of making the Thunder roster out of training camp. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]</strong>

Oklahoma City's Hamidou Diallo will work on several skill sets this summer with hopes of making the Thunder roster out of training camp. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-96a2ab091cf84dee0799644f1bc54901.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Hamidou Diallo will work on several skill sets this summer with hopes of making the Thunder roster out of training camp. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] " title=" Oklahoma City's Hamidou Diallo will work on several skill sets this summer with hopes of making the Thunder roster out of training camp. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Oklahoma City's Hamidou Diallo will work on several skill sets this summer with hopes of making the Thunder roster out of training camp. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Maddie Lee

Maddie Lee followed an NBA team from Seattle to Oklahoma City, she just took a 10-year detour in between. Lee joined the Oklahoman in October 2018 as a Thunder beat writer, fresh off a stint in Oxford, Miss., where she covered Ole Miss for the... Read more ›

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