When Lawrence Frank, the Los Angeles Clippers’ president of basketball operations, spoke on draft night about the team’s choice to select Moussa Diabaté in the second round, he admitted that the young big was a “development project.” It’s not just Frank who realizes that.
Speaking to gathered media on Tuesday afternoon, Diabaté acknowledged the journey he’s about to set forth on.
“I’ve got to work on a lot of things and get better at [them],” the Frenchman said. “But I think it’s a long game.”
Diabaté spent one year at Michigan, averaging 9.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 24.9 minutes per game. He helped the Wolverines reach the Sweet Sixteen before eventually falling to Villanova.
When you watch film on him, it’s easy to see why the Clippers fell in love with the lanky Diabaté. He projects as a good defensive player with a high motor, something he knows is one of the ways he can get on the floor and help the team.
“Just play the way I’ve been playing before, and just give energy, play defense, be able to be versatile defensively and offensively,” Diabaté said. “I think those are the main things.”
On draft night, Frank said he sees Diabaté as a “five-four,” a center who can slot in at power forward defensively. Clippers’ assistant coach and player development guru Shaun Fein, who will get the head coaching gig for Summer League, mentioned that Diabaté is someone he thinks will “be able to switch one through five” on the defensive end. But the high praise from key decision makers isn’t going to Diabaté’s head.
“I feel like a lot of rookies when they come in, they expect so much of themselves and sometimes you’re just adding unnecessary pressure,” Diabaté said. “And I don’t want to put myself in that [situation], so I just think that I got to trust the process and just go with it.”
Diabaté knows it’s going to take a while for him to see the floor, especially on a team that has high aspirations for a championship. It’s what makes the G League so important for him as he’ll likely spend plenty of time with the Ontario Clippers and getting his work in there.
The one year at Michigan did help, he says, in large part due to coach Juwan Howard and what Diabaté was able to learn from a guy who spent 19 seasons in the NBA.
“For coach Juwan, it was just understanding the game was such a big thing,” said Diabaté.
“In high school, it was more like refining your skills, but I think in college it was more like making sure to pay attention to the details. I think that was a big thing for me was just paying attention to the details, like not just go 100%. Sometimes you have to slow down and pay attention to the details.”
If Diabaté, as he puts it, is able to truly slow down and pay attention to the details, there’s a solid chance he can use these next couple years of development to turn into a player who can help the Clippers down the line.
After all, he seems to understand that the “long game” is the one he has to play.