Roster Review

2015-16 Roster Review: Gorgui Dieng


Over the past three seasons, we’ve come accustomed to the idea of Gorgui Dieng being a good NBA player. By that, I mean it’s more or less a unanimous opinion that Dieng, at the very least, is a solid bench player who can find a role on just about every roster in the league. Considering where he started, a late-first round pick with lots of question marks, this is an accomplishment in itself.

This season may have been his best all-around. Touted as a potential rim protector coming out of Louisville 3 summers ago, Dieng’s calling card so far in the NBA has been on the offensive end. This year, he was praised more than ever for his defense.

After Kevin Garnett went down with an injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the season (and a combo of a Nemanja Bjelica injury, plus his struggles when healthy), Dieng was able to step into the starting lineup. His solid play on both ends, and chemistry with Karl-Anthony Towns helped him earn and keep that spot.

Though several lineup combinations suggest his defense wasn’t as solid as advertised (the Dieng/Towns lineup has a defensive rating of 107.4), there always seemed to be more to it. It often felt as though many of Towns’ success blocking shots on that end was partially a result of Dieng being in the right spot on the floor, helping him on the interior. He always knew what to do.

Whether it was him directing traffic on the break.

Or leading an attempted pick and roll right to the Rookie of the Year.

His defense has improved, though still needs to continue to improve to be considered a true defensive force. His offense is impressive enough to warrant minutes on most teams. The question with G is no longer whether or not he can play in the league, but rather what role puts him in the best position to succeed.

This decision will have to be made sooner rather than later. With Dieng entering restricted free agency this summer, Tom Thibodeou will have to decide how much the team will value Dieng. As a general rule, big men (centers, especially) are paid so handsomely that the term “overpaid” can be hard to put into context.

On one hand, yes, G is a good basketball player. On the other hand, this team has Karl-Anthony Towns, who is a better basketball player, set as their starting center of the future. The two of them had success playing together in the frontcourt this past season, but is this the future starting frontcourt of the Timberwolves? I think most would prefer to eventually find someone a bit more mobile and floor-stretching than Dieng.

Dieng is likely going to get starter’s money, but if he isn’t the best fit as a long-term starter next to KAT, are the Wolves going to be willing to pay Dieng starter’s money to be the team’s future third big?

On one hand, it may not be the worst investment. He’s seemed pretty durable through three seasons, and has improved every year since entering the league. He and KAT like each other and seem to enjoy playing on the floor together. Offensively, the two of them fit, and Towns is enough of a floor spacer by himself to make it work. Add another floor spacer, it may work out.

On the other hand, does Dieng want to be a third big? It’s possible that he doesn’t, as his ascension has helped him prove to be a potential starter for a few teams. It’s possible that he’s part of this young movement, and may feel too attached to the Wiggins/Towns/LaVine circle to leave.

There are lot of question marks surrounding Gorugi Dieng, but they’re no longer about whether he can “hack it” in this league. It’s about his future, whatever that may be. Whatever it is, he’s made his mark with the Timberwolves over three seasons, this past year being his best.

Watching him grow has been painful at times, but mostly an enjoyable sight.

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3 thoughts on “2015-16 Roster Review: Gorgui Dieng

  1. I like Dieng and he’s clearly a hard worker who keeps adding to his game. He can be fun to watch in a quirky fort of way. I do find myself confused by how enamored fellow fans are by him, as well as Sam Mitchell. It became clear that ‘G’ was one of Sam’s favorite players, with trust that few (not even Rubio!) were allotted. This raised my eyebrows and this sort of mindless favoritism makes me glad Sam is gone.

    Dieng was really inconsistent–from play to play, from game to game, from month to month. Maybe this is semantics, but I think ‘good’ NBA players are more consistent. Deing has consistent tools—he works hard, has a good mid range jumper, gets a block now and again–but you don’t see it congeal into a consistent good player you can count on. Moving into the starting lineup next to Towns helped his game and consistency. It would do the same for most bigs–Towns did a lot of the front line work, and took a great deal of attention away from other non guards as the season went on. That said, they did have a clear spark of chemistry. The quandary is this: Deing played his best with Towns, really only looked like a guy we should keep around for sure, when playing with Towns. But they are both centers. It worked as well as it did because they are both power forwardy centers. Dieng would rather hit a mid range shot than work the post. He is fairly mobile though a bit awkward. Towns can score well from anywhere on the floor and guard multiple positions, not skill sets we associate with centers. Still, Deing just isn’t a power forward defensively or offensively. Towns plays ‘bigger’ yet still feels like the one who has mastered both positions and he’s penciled in as our center.

    I wonder if Deing will really be worth the money he will command in the future. He’s an odd player. He’s quick and can shoot well for a big, yet awkward. He’s smart yet always behind the learning curve.He was drafted with high defensive hopes, but it is clear now that he just doesn’t have a great natural feel for defense and rim protection like Towns. He may improve in this aspect, but he’ll never be great at it—he just lacks a natural knack for it. He’s a back up center on this roster in a lot of ways, yet seems too ambitious to accept that role. And even if he does, he’s not really a pure center that can push guys around. He sort of floats between ideal roles, never quite finding one. In the new ‘positionless’ NBA this might not seem to be a problem, but Deing just isn’t good enough to put on the floor that many minutes, ’cause he’s a basketball player, and build around whatever role he can fill. That kind of thing is for more elite talent. We may keep him for a long time, and maybe our new coach will be much better at finding him a role and teaching him up. But we may also draft someone who takes his role and runs with it. He might also be good trade bait. Well have to see.

  2. It can’t be forgotten that Dieng was drafted in a class where a lot of bigs with overlapping value will become free agents at the same time: Cody Zeller, Alex Len, Nerlens Noel, Steven Adams, Kelly Olynyk, Mason Plumlee, and Rudy Gobert. All of those guys potentially have more appeal than Dieng; even the ones with similar production like Zeller (youth, athleticism), Len (youth, size, athleticism), Olynyk (shooting), and Plumlee (passing, defense) likely have more appeal.

    Dieng’s a competent player. No one knows more than the Wolves how hard it is to develop competent players. Likely, they need to use their cap space wisely this summer because extensions for their youth will make it hard to do so in future years. They likely know Dieng’s trade value, and there shouldn’t really be a debate regarding whether they match a restricted offer next summer if it comes to that point.

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