Former Louisville Cardinal and National Champion Gorgui Dieng was seen as a project upon entering the 2013 draft, the main reason he wasn’t selected until 21st overall. The Utah Jazz originally drafted the 6-foot-11 center, but the Minnesota Timberwolves saw something they liked, because they traded ninth overall pick Trey Burke to the Jazz for Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad. While Muhammad has been hard pressed to find playing time, Dieng has been swatting away shots in garbage minutes all season long.
Dieng already has eight blocks in his young career, and even more amazing is the fact he has played in just eight games and has averaged just over six minutes played in each of those games. Dieng has been getting the garbage minutes in Timberwolves blowouts, but the rookie is really impressing on the defensive end, so much he is beginning to look like the next Serge Ibaka.
Ibaka and Dieng have nearly identical body types, and each have a immense reach that allows for the numerous blocked shots and rebounds. While it’s still very early in Dieng’s career, and Ibaka has continued his improved play this season by averaging 14 points and 10 rebounds per game, Dieng could quickly become the player Ibaka was just a few seasons ago.
Prior to last season’s offensive explosion from Ibaka, the big man was known primarily as a defensive difference maker, which is the same mold I see Dieng fitting into for the forseeable future. It’s become clear when watching Dieng that he is still adjusting to the NBA style and speed, as he looks downright uncomfortable on the court at times.
The uncertainty Dieng shows when on the court is a huge reason I see him continuing to make improvements to his game. This season will likely serve as a feet wetting period for Dieng, even though the Wolves are looking for a solid backup center who can also play the four. The rookie likely won’t be ready to contribute real minutes at a high level this season, however, if he continues to impress in blowouts, Dieng may actually receive some playing time alongside Kevin Love when the game is not yet out of hand.
While its become clear that Rick Adelman doesn’t trust his bench and would prefer more veteran players, the Wolves hopefully are looking to hold onto Dieng for the length of his rookie contract, as the 23 year old is already showing promise on defense and has the length and athleticism to succeed on offense as well.