NBA youngsters to watch: Gorgui Dieng

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Senegalese rookie had to wait for his shot with the Timberwolves but he grabbed it with both hands when it came.

Rick Adelman was not known for his generosity when it came to giving rookies playing time. Derrick Williams’ time with the Timberwolves was severely impacted by a lack of opportunity and minutes on the floor.

No one was blaming Adelman for not giving youngster Gorgui Dieng much playing time, however. With Nikola Pekovich starting and veteran Ronnie Turiaf available as the second choice center, leaving Dieng on the bench made sense.

But when both Pekovich and Turiaf went down with injuries in March, Dieng was called upon to step into the starting line up, having only played more than 15 minutes in a game once all season.

And boy did he do well. In Minnesota’s last 18 games of the season Dieng played an average of 30.3 minutes per game and put up some seriously impressive numbers. With 12.0 points, 11.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game, Dieng thrived, proving his NBA readiness.

Dieng’s main calling card is his rebounding. The 11.1 rebounds per game in that 18 game period speak for themselves but what they don’t show is how strong his offensive rebounding is.

If you inflate Dieng’s regular season numbers to per 36 minute figures, it projects that Dieng would be grabbing 4.5 offensive boards per game. That would put him right behind Andre Drummond for the second highest mark in the league. It would be ambitious to think that Dieng could put up such a high figure over a larger sample period but even if he comes anywhere near that number, he’ll be in impressive company.

As a shot blocker Dieng also looks capable. At 6’11, with a wingspan of 7’4, he’s got great length and when he’s not blocking shots he’s altering them. This could be an extremely useful asset for Minnesota as they finished last in the league in shot cloacking and opponent field goal percentage within 5 feet of the rim this season.

Dieng’s offensive arsenal isn’t anywhere near full as most of his points come from offensive rebounds and dump passes though he’s showed that he can knock down a jumper if asked, hitting 45.4% of his shots from outside of 8 feet this season. If Dieng could add some post moves he could become a genuine scoring threat.

Now that Adelman has retired Dieng could well grab the back up center job, something that will excite Minnesota Timberwolves fan’s during a time when they face losing their star power forward Kevin Love. Expect Dieng to develop into a solid NBA player if given the time and experience he needs.