Monday, May 5, 2008

Player Report Card: Yakhouba Diawara

(Boulder-CO) The beginning of the season was once again filled with optimism for Yakhouba Diawara, but just like last year he again found himself lost on George Karl’s bench by season’s end.

And the reason is simple:

Yakhouba is a major liability on offense. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “His defense is NBA, but his offense is CBA”.

And for a team that was supposedly going to focus on defense, as was the word from Karl’s mouth back in early October, Yakhouba still couldn’t even fit in because of his offensive woes. After appearing in 64 games, with 19 starts, for an average of 18 minutes last year, the Yak’s playing time declined to a mere ten minutes per game in 54 appearances with just 14 starts.

Now, after looking at ‘Khouba’s stats from this year in comparison to this year there are few things that jump right out at me. Despite the fact that all his overall numbers (2.8 points, 0.7 rebounds, and 1.1 rebounds) slid from last year, there was some positive signs for Diawara. For starters, both his three-point percentage and overall shooting percentage went up. From the field, Yakhouba was 41% this year after shooting only 34% the year before, and from deep he increased his percentage three points to 31%.

The only problem for Yakhouba are the tangible gains by his immediate competition for Karl’s minutes are far superior. Both J.R. Smith and Linas Kleiza are swiftly developing into mainstream NBA names while the Yak continues to have his name mispronounced at opposing arenas. But, at just a few trips to the Pepsi Center more than $600,000 in annual salary things could be worse.

Nuggets brass is in the driver’s seat when it comes to Yakhouba’s future in the Mile High City because his $711,517 salary for next year’s services is only going to be payable if the team decides to exercise his option. Which, at this point, is anyone’s guess whether or not they will. I know George Karl likes his yeoman work ethic, and reports are that he is a good locker room guy to have around, but the fulcrum question is whether or not the Nuggets can afford to have a situation-only player on their roster.

My grading for Yakhouba is a D+. There wasn’t far for him to slide after meager numbers in his rookie season , but due to the circumstances aforementioned the Yak did just that and probably slid even farther from having much of a shot at contributing for this team in years to come.

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