I remember my first introduction to Mr. Diaw, back when the Atlanta Hawks had no idea how to use the 6-foot-8 youngster with plenty of skill but no outline of a position. He stunk in those days, a gangly youth, but even then, a startling basketball IQ existed underneath his long, awkward-looking frame. Two seasons after Diaw was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks with the 21st pick of the 2003 NBA Draft, he was traded to the Phoenix Suns in the Joe Johnson deal. Nobody figured it was a big get for Phoenix.
But when Amare Stoudemire went down with an injury, Diaw improbably became the second option for one of the NBA’s top teams, a 6-foot-8 choreographer who played center in Mike D’Antoni’s run-and-gun system yet displayed the passing skills of an elite guard. Do-it-all Diaw became one of my favorite players, a center whose no-look passes were laced with the sound of Mozart, who would defend Tim Duncan on one possession and unleash an around-the-back pass directly into Shawn Marion’s hands on the next. According to Wikipedia (my high school teachers would kill me for using that as a source, but whatevs), Diaw averaged 18.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.1 blocks per game on .526 field goal percentage during the 2006 playoffs. He was a blossoming star, a 24-year old coming into his own alongside Steve Nash.
That, sadly, was before Diaw began frequenting all-you-can-eat buffets on a thrice-daily basis. Now, he’s lumpy and fat, and the sound of his passes is more Beethoven than Mozart. And by Beethoven, I mean the big St. Bernard dog in the movie whose steps shake the earth. Diaw’s a horrendous rebounder (his total rebounding rate is significantly less than Greg Stiemsma’s, according to Hoop Data), shoots 41 percent, managed to play 37 games this season while getting to the free throw line just 27 times, can’t run the floor, and his release was widely viewed as a positive in Charlotte, where the other big man options include B.J. Mullens, Bismack Biyombo and D.J. White.
Ladies and gentleman, I give you Boris Diaw, who now fits right in with the rest of the thoroughly-flawed free agent big men.