The Pistons announced today that they have invited former first-round draft pick Ike Diogu to training camp.
Diogu, who signed last year with the New Orleans Hornets, did not play at all in 2009-10 following recurring bouts of knee pain that ultimately resulted in microfracture surgery. He has been a player I’ve championed over the years after taking notice of his “breakout” a rookie in Golden State way back in 2005.
Yes, there are a multitude of red flags: 1. He is coming off major surgery 1. He is an undersized frontcourt player 3. His defense is … less than ideal 4. He is on his sixth team in five NBA seasons.
But screw it, I’m excited anyway, and here’s why.
Diogu has never really been given a chance to succeed. He has never averaged more than 15 minutes per game, but has been consistently productive whenever getting some run. Perhaps most importantly, he’s still only 26 years old.
As a rookie in Golden State he played nearly 15 minutes per game and averaged 7 points and 3.3 rebounds while shooting 52 percent all while battling Troy Murphy, Adonal Foyle and Andris Biedrins for playing time. The next season, coach Mike Montgomery was given his walking papers and in came Nellie-ball, featuring unconventional lineups and little opportunity for Diogu. He was largely forgotten and eventually shipped to the Indiana Pacers in the megatrade that involved Mike Dunleavy Jr., Troy Murphy, Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington. Since then he has bounced around, from Indiana to Portland to Sacremento, getting little playing time but scoring quickly and efficiently when his number has been called.
He will not help the Pistons’ porous defense, but he can rebound reasonably well for a player of his size, and he has chance to greatly improve two areas where the Pistons are sorely lacking: post scoring and offensive efficiency. For his career Diogu has a 57.7 true shooting percentage, averages 9 rebounds per 36 minutes and has never had a PER below 15. In his last stop for the Kings he played in 10 games and secured a 61.1 true shooting percentage and a 15.5 rebound rate.
In John Hollinger’s scouting report prior to last season, the ESPN analyst described Diogu thusly (subscription):
Diogu is an undersized power forward with a real knack for playing around the basket, helped by a wide frame that helps him get deep post position. Although his lack of height gives him trouble finishing around the basket, he makes up for it by drawing heaps of fouls. His major weakness inside is a proclivity for turnovers, as he tends to force the action in traffic.
Just like I think you have to look at the Tracy McGrady signing should be viewed in the spectrum of who he is replacing (Chucky Atkins), I think you have to look at the Diogu invite the same way. Diogu is essentially talking the roster spot previously occupied by Kwame Brown and could possibly take minutes from the woefully ineffective Chris Wilcox. In that way, it’s nothing but a low-risk move with nothing but upside for Detroit.