DeSagana Diop wasn’t the flashiest player in the league but he made a career off of doing what was asked of him. As a trusted bench piece who played the role he was given to perfection, he spent over ten years in the NBA, an accomplishment few basketball players have been able to accomplish.
Diop was born and raised in Senegal.
At 15 years old, he began to play basketball and moved to the United States. He attended Oak Hill Academy, where he averaged 14.6 points per game (PPG), 13.2 points per game (RPG), and 8.1 blocks per game (BPG) in his senior year. He led the team to be ranked No. 1 in the nation after going 33-0 for the season. Diop was rewarded for his spectacular senior season by being named a First-team Parade All-American and USA Today’s Virginia Player of the Year.
Welcome to the NBA
He was drafted straight out of high school by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 8th overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft.
Upon entering the league, the seven-footer was a threat on defense, especially when it came to blocking shots. Unfortunately for Diop, his biggest weakness when it came to basketball was his offense.
Diop spent four years with the Cavs. He averaged 1.6 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 0.5 assists per game (APG), 0.4 steals per game (SPG), and 0.9 BPG in his time with Cleveland. He scored a career-high 10 points on November 23, 2002, in a game against the New Orleans Hornets. The Cavaliers struggled the first few years Diop was on the team but they slowly started to improve after drafting Lebron James in the 2003 NBA Draft, finally reaching a winning record in the 2004-05 season, Diop’s final year with the team. Unfortunately, even with the Cavaliers finally reaching a winning season, they still missed out on the playoffs for the seventh straight year, and Diop never got to see the playoffs with the team.
Diop’s Time in Dallas
In the 2005 offseason, Diop signed as a free agent with the Mavericks.
In his first year on the team, he was promoted to more of a starter role as he got the opportunity to start in 45 of his 81 games played that season. He had one of his best statistical seasons when he joined the Mavs as he averaged 2.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.5 SPG, and a career-high 1.8 BPG. Diop was a menace on the court when it came to blocks as he finished the season 11th in total blocks, 14th in blocks per game, and 4th in blocks per 48 minutes. Diop’s defense played a big part in the Mavericks’ regular season success. The team finished the season fourth in the Western Conference with a 60-22 record. The Mavs swept the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round. They then went on to defeat their rivals, the San Antonio Spurs, in seven games. Dallas got their revenge on the Phoenix Suns from the year prior by beating them in six games in the Western Conference Finals. The Mavericks reached their first-ever NBA Finals where they faced off against the Miami Heat. The Mavs got the early 2-0 series lead but ultimately lost to the Heat in six games. Diop started in 18 of the 22 playoff games he took part in. In the playoffs, he averaged 2.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 0.1 APG, 0.6 SPG, and 1.3 BPG.
Diop was moved back to his role off the bench at the beginning of the 2006-07 season. For the season, he put up 2.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.5 SPG, and 1.4 BPG while getting the start in nine of his 81 games played. The Mavericks finished the season first in the West with a franchise-best 67-15 record. Unfortunately what followed put the Mavericks in the history books for an infamous reason. In the first round of the playoffs, Dallas lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games. The Mavericks became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 8 seed in a seven-game series. Diop got the start in half of the playoff games and averaged 3.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.5 SPG, and 1.7 BPG in the series.
Diop started the 2007-08 season with the Mavericks but he wouldn’t finish it with them. Diop started in 18 of his 52 games played with the team. In his 52 games played, he averaged 3.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.4 SPG, and 1.2 BPG.
Trade to the Nets
Halfway through the 2007-08 season, Diop was traded to the New Jersey Nets in a trade package to acquire Jason Kidd and some other players. He continued to prominently come off the bench when he joined the Nets, starting in only five of his 27 games with the team. He only spent half a season with the team, where he averaged 2.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.2 SPG, and 0.9 BPG. The Nets missed out on the playoffs as they finished tenth in the Eastern Conference with a 34-48 record.
Diop Returns to Dallas
Diop returned to the Mavericks in the offseason, signing with the team as a free agent. His return to Dallas was short-lived as he again was traded by the team mid-way through the season. He made 34 appearances with the club, all coming off the bench. In his half-season return with the team, he averaged 1.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.4 SPG, and 0.7 BPG.
The Charlotte Years
On January 16, 2009, Diop was traded to the Charlotte Bobcats where he spent his last four-and-a-half years in the NBA. In Charlotte, he came off the bench in all but 11 of his 133 games played with the team. In his Charlotte tenure, he managed to put up 1.6 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.3 SPG, and 0.7 BPG. Charlotte only made the playoffs one time in his four-and-a-half years there. Charlotte’s lone playoff appearance with Diop on the team was in 2010 when they were swept in the first round by the Orlando Magic. Diop didn’t take part in any of the playoff games. He played his final NBA game with the Bobcats.
Goodbye to the NBA
In the offseason, he signed with the Cavaliers but was waived by the team before the season started. He retired shortly after at the age of 31.
During Diop’s time with Dallas, he transitioned from being primarily a starting center for the team to moving back to the bench where he played most of his career. He put up 2.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.5 SPG, and 1.4 BPG in his three years with the Mavericks while also getting the start in 72 of his 248 games with the team.
Since retiring from the NBA Diop has taken various coaching jobs at different levels.
In November 2014, Diop joined the Texas Legends, the Mavericks D-League team at the time and their current G League team, as a player development coach. They finished fourth in the Southwest division with a losing record of 22-28 in his first year there.
The following season he was promoted to assistant coach of the team. They improved their record by one game and finished third in their division, but it still wasn’t enough to make the playoffs.
During the 2016 offseason, Diop was hired by the Utah Jazz as a coaching associate. The Jazz finished the season fifth in the West with a 51-31 record. They beat the Clippers in seven games before getting swept by the Warriors in the second round of the playoffs.
The following season the Jazz finished fifth again, this time with a 48-34 record. They took down the Oklahoma City Thunder in six games before getting eliminated by the Rockets in five games.
He continued his coaching associate role with the Jazz heading into the 2018-19 season, where the team finished fifth in the conference for the third straight year, this time ending their season 50-32. Utah’s playoff journey didn’t last very long as they were quickly eliminated in five games by the Rockets.
In Diop’s final year as a coaching associate for the Jazz, the team finished sixth in the conference with a 44-28 record. In a hard-fought seven-game series between the Jazz and the Denver Nuggets, Utah ultimately came out on the losing end of the battle and were eliminated from the playoffs.
Before the 2020-21 season, Diop was hired as an assistant coach by the Houston Rockets to be part of head coach Stephen Silas’ coaching staff. In his first season as an assistant coach, the Rockets finished last in the Western Conference with a 17-55 record.
The Rockets got a few more wins the following season but they once again finished last in the conference with a 20-62 record.
The Rockets’ started their 2022-23 season pretty similar to their last two years, with a losing record of 10-27.
Diop speaks five languages: English, Spanish, French, Arabic, and Wolof.
Even though Diop didn’t reach the same level of success he did in high school, he still managed to last in the NBA for 11 seasons, which is more than twice as long as the average NBA player, four and a half years. His best years were in Dallas as a starter, but he still utilized the talent he was given on every team he was on. Though he wasn’t the most productive player on the team, he could be relied on to do what was required of him to help the team succeed. He will be remembered by Mavs fans for what he was able to bring to the Mavericks defensively during his time with the team.