The Minnesota Timberwolves were riddled by injuries last season, and with Chase Budinger already sidelined for the early part of this season things have not gotten off to a positive start on the health front. Now Ronny Turiaf will miss time after suffering a radial head fracture in his right elbow after a fall Friday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder, which will leave the team a bit thin on options behind starting center Nikola Pekovic. Could some step up and take on a prominent role?
Coach Rick Adelman has already honed in on rookie center Gorgui Dieng, who was the second of two first-round picks in June (21st overall) to land with the Timberwolves, as a prime candidate to become Pekovics’s primary backup while Turiaf is sidelined. Adelman also hinted as mixing lineup combinations to fill the void, including moving forward Kevin Love over to center at times. Dieng made his regular season debut against the Thunder, and he had an assist but no points or rebounds in 14 minutes of action.
Dieng was a key player in Louisville’s title run last season, averaging 9.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots per game. He is a raw offensive player to be sure, but he could be an important defensive presence off the bench for the Timberwolves with the possibility of more playing time virtually right out of the gate.
Adelman has generally not shown a lot of trust in rookies, but the fact he so quickly mentioned Dieng as a candidate for a bigger role while Turiaf is out is a sign the rookie center will get an opportunity to earn playing time. With Turiaf virtually certain to miss multiple weeks, it’s possible Dieng takes hold of the role as Pekovic’s backup and never relinquishes it.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.