Early on at the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League, Minnesota Timberwolves rookie center Gorgui Dieng didn’t exactly look comfortable. He was having trouble finding the range on his shot, seemed to lack composure on the whole, and seemed somewhat lost on both ends of the floor. At that point, Wolves fans had to be a bit wary of Dieng.
However, as Summer League went on he settled down and actually showed that he has a great deal of potential. Overall, Dieng finished Summer League having played six games and averaged 4.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, one steal and 1.2 blocks in just 15.2 minutes per game on 54.5 percent shooting.
With Minnesota re-signing Nikola Pekovic, Dieng obviously isn’t going to be relied upon too heavily this season. Though he’s had some injury troubles in his young career, Pekovic plays a good amount of minutes for a center, seeing the floor for 31.6 minutes per game last season in the 62 games that he played.
However, Dieng will likely be competing with new Timberwolves center Ronny Turiaf for minutes off of the bench. Though Turiaf can provide energy and camaraderie to the Wolves, that should be a competition that Dieng comes out on top of. If that’s the way things play out, Dieng is going to have a pretty specific role.
Dieng is essentially going to be asked to do two things that he does well. First off, he’s going to be asked to play solid defense when he gets up off of the pine. In college he showed he’s a great shot-blocker and showed at Summer League he has good defensive awareness. There will be some rookie growing pains, but that should be something that will continue in the regular season.
The other thing Dieng should give the Wolves off of the bench is a bit of a different look offensively. Pekovic is a great offensive center, but much of his success comes from being a big, bruising guy deep in the post. Dieng isn’t nearly as proficient offensively as Pek, but he also derives a lot of his offensive success out of the high post. With Dieng coming off of the bench with that type of offense, it will allow Minnesota to throw different looks at opponents for stretches, keeping them on their toes.
Dieng probably won’t be in the running for Rookie of the Year this season, but that doesn’t mean he won’t have the opportunity to make a positive impact on the Timberwolves. If he can play solid defense and give their reserve units some offensive flexibility, a positive impact is exactly what he will bring.
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