Two takeaways from the New York Knicks series with the Indiana Pacers were that they lacked size and the ability to protect the rim. Besides being massacred on the boards, Pacers players like Lance Stephenson and Paul George were able to slice down the lane with unnerving ease.
It flies in the face of what the Knicks were during their glory years of the early to mid nineties: defensive intimidators of the highest order. Back then driving down the lane would earn some unsuspecting player a Charles Oakley elbow to the chops and a date with the ice tub after the game. That’s if he didn’t meet Anthony Mason first, who’d crash his beefy shoulder into that player’s sternum for having the audacity to even think about penetrating the lane.
These new Knicks are three-point shot makers who can’t do much else when those shots aren’t falling, much less get their paws on the ball for rebounds or provide consistent interior defense.
Enter, Gorgui Dieng, the 6’11” center who could be on the board by the time the Knicks use their No. 24 pick in next month’s NBA Draft. The University of Louisville prospect is the kind of athletic, vertically imposing presence New York would need.
Dieng, who has a 7’4” wingspan, was the linchpin of his team’s defense, which won the NCAA Championship this past April. His shot-blocking numbers were down this year. But his sophomore season at Louisville he collected 128 blocks shots, which were a Louisville single season record.
“He’s a very capable weakside shot-blocker with excellent timing who has learned to patrol the paint without fouling or goaltending as much as he did in the past,” according DraftExpress, a professional scouting, statistics and analytics service. He is also a capable rebounder, averaging 9.9 caroms a game this past season, good for tenth place in the nation.
Where Dieng needs work is on the offensive end. He converted just 28 percent of his attempts in the post. The majority of his scoring occurred in the immediate vicinity of the rim this season, with most of his scoring opportunities created by his teammates, according to DraftExpress.
But Dieng can finish above the rim and is an athletic big.
The 245-pound junior has to improve his strength to contend with the bigger, more skilled post players of the NBA. Yet, he would be able to contribute as a backup center right away, bringing some rebounding acumen and interior defense, something the Knicks sorely need.
At 23, Dieng is one of the older prospects in the draft. Therefore, he lacks elite upside in the eyes of scouts. Yet, what he does bring would be a boon to New York, which finished at No. 25 in rebounding and last in the league in blocks this regular season.
Tacuma R. Roeback is a New York Knicks writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @TacumaRoe, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google+