Skip to content

Boris Diaw has gone from Bobcats castoff to NBA Finals difference maker

Jun 13, 2014, 11:45 AM EDT

MIAMI — There was a time, just a little more than two years ago, when a Charlotte Bobcats team with the worst record in the NBA was more than happy to buy out an overweight Boris Diaw and get him off their roster. He was averaging 7.7 points points a night shooting 41.4 percent overall and 27 percent from three, plus he was unhappy and almost eating himself out of the league.

Now, he’s a key starter on a San Antonio Spurs team on the doorstep of winning an NBA Finals.

“I just think the Bobcats were not the right fit for him because he’s the ultimate team player and needs a system and stuff like that,” said Tony Parker, who has played with Diaw since they were teenagers together in France. “He’s a perfect fit for us.”

That’s could be an understatement.

Diaw’s overall play could land him on some NBA Finals MVP ballots — since Gregg Popovich inserted him into the starting lineup in Game 3 the Spurs have just steamrolled the Heat. In the Finals Diaw is +15 per 48 minutes and the Spurs main lineup of him, Tim Duncan, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker is +51 per 48. He has the second most touches and the second most passes on the team, behind only Parker, in those two games — he is a hub of the Spurs’ offense.

To use Popovich’s words, Diaw lets the Spurs go small without actually going small (he is 6’8” and still carrying a little extra luggage listed at 250 pounds).

“You know, Boris pretty much does the same thing every night as far as helping us be a smarter team, at both ends of the floor,” Popovich said after Game 4. “He knows what’s going on most all the time.  At the offensive end he’s a passer.  He understands mismatches.  He knows time and score.  At the defensive end, he knows when to help.  He’s active.  So he just helps the whole team have a better IQ, I think.”

“Pop just told me that I was going to start the game and trying to be a facilitator out there, just trying to make plays for others and try to make the right choices,” Diaw said of being inserted into the starting lineup (which is “just” +6.3 per 48 with Diaw). “So I was just focusing on that role.  Being able to be a relay.  They’re pretty aggressive on their pickandrolls, so just try to be somebody that gives an outlet pass and looking for the open man.”

What he does well presents a challenge for Miami.

“He’s a crafty player man,” Chris Bosh said of Diaw. “He’s difficult, you never know what he’s going to do. You don’t know if he’s going to shoot it, you don’t know if he’s going to drive it, pass it, shoot it again, you don’t know what he’s going to do. I think his ability to do everything in that point forward kind of position makes it difficult…. He’s just one of those players that confuses the hell out of you. The minute you’re not watching he’s walking to the rim or shooting a set, wide-open three pointer.”

Popovich’s gift is defining roles that play to a player’s strengths then putting them in when they are in a position to succeed. Don’t ask a guy to be what he is not, ask him to do what he does well. 

For Diaw that is passing, facilitating. He drives to dish, but if you leave him open he can drain the three and if you close out he can put the ball on the floor and drive and draw defenders so he can make the right read and pass.

Diaw sees what he has done this series as taking what the Heat are giving him.

“I mean, obviously we were looking to pass the ball to each other,” Diaw said. “But they forced us into that, too, because they are very aggressive on the pickandrolls.  They don’t let us have any air, any space.  So we’ve got to drive, we’ve got to kick, and we’ve got to make a few passes before we get an open shot.  If we would have to do only one dribble and find somebody open and shoot it, we’d do it, too, but they force us to make three, four, five passes.  But at some point we find somebody….

“I always try to read on the floor who is going to be open.  We all try to make good passes.  Everybody on our team is reading, including me, but we don’t want to go for the home run pass.  We try to make the right pass, and sometimes the easy pass is the right pass.”

In Game 4 Diaw had 8 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists — he was on the verge of a triple-double. That he didn’t quite make the numbers does not detract from his overall impact — without him this would be a different series.

“I think he’s really found his rhythm,” Tim Duncan said. “He’s always been effective with what he’s done using his body, using his ability to pass and his ability to attack the basket and smaller players, and it’s really showing in this series.  He’s been the key for us early, catching and driving, making the right plays, finding open people.  He’s really changed the game for us, along with rebounding, defending as well as he has.

“He hasn’t really even scored that much, but he’s found a way to be really effective getting in the paint and finding people and making plays for us.”

So effective the Spurs are one win away from a title. 

Latest Posts
  1. Cavs’ improved defense deserves credit for commanding 2-0 Eastern Conference Finals lead

    May 23, 2015, 12:25 AM EDT

    Timofey Mozgov Timofey Mozgov

    Cleveland shut down Atlanta’s offense in a dominant Game 2 performance.

  2. No Kyrie Irving, no problem: Cavaliers cruise to blowout Game 2 win over Hawks

    May 22, 2015, 11:16 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    LeBron was great, and that was enough against a Hawks team that keeps losing guys due to injury.

  3. James Harden was ‘kicking chairs’ after Rockets’ Game 2 loss to Warriors

    May 22, 2015, 10:30 PM EDT

    Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors - Game Two Getty Images

    There’s also video of Harden doing some damage in the tunnel on the way to the locker room.

  4. Pero Antic commits flagrant foul on LeBron James (VIDEO)

    May 22, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game One Getty Images

    Ruled a flagrant, which was probably the correct call under the circumstances.

  5. Lakers not planning on trading the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft

    May 22, 2015, 8:30 PM EDT

    Mitch Kupchak AP

    GM Mitch Kupchak: “It looks as though we’ll use our pick this year.”

  6. Kyrie Irving out for Game 2 vs. Hawks

    May 22, 2015, 7:38 PM EDT

    Miami Heat v Cleveland Cavaliers Getty Images

    Irving is dealing with a knee injury.

  7. Kobe Bryant tries to explain Stephen Curry with a riddle

    May 22, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Golden State Warriors Getty Images

    Explaining Stephen Curry’s game is just not that easy.

  8. Clippers’ Dahntay Jones: There’s no rift between Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan

    May 22, 2015, 6:49 PM EDT

    Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Clippers Getty Images

    Did they disagree? Sure. Was there a rift… depends on who you ask.

  9. Report: Clippers, other teams have made Summer League offers to Royce White

    May 22, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT

    Royce White AP

    Summer League is a perfect place for giving White another look.

  10. Report: Lakers have ‘big-time’ interest in signing DeMarre Carroll, Celtics and Pistons also in pursuit

    May 22, 2015, 2:45 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Atlanta Hawks Getty Images

    Would they pay him the $15 million per season one NBA executive estimated the Hawks forward could get in free agency?

  11. Kyrie Irving misses shootaround, questionable for Game 2

    May 22, 2015, 10:25 AM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game One Getty Images

    Is his injury more serious than previously thought?

Featured video

Small ball lineup propelled Warriors to Game 1 win
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Irving (5879)
  2. K. Love (5047)
  3. D. Howard (4547)
  4. P. Beverley (4464)
  5. S. Curry (3806)
  1. L. James (3538)
  2. K. Durant (3473)
  3. M. Speights (3467)
  4. D. Carroll (3451)
  5. K. Bryant (3388)