Gorgui Dieng is coming off an impressive season for the Minnesota Timberwolves. With the addition of Taj Gibson due to have a yet unknown impact on the rotation, what can we expect from Dieng in 2017-18?
Gorgui Dieng managed to start in all 82 games for the Timberwolves a year ago and showed that he is a solid, role-playing big man in the NBA. After largely playing center in his first three seasons as a pro, Dieng started at power forward alongside Karl-Anthony Towns during the 2016-17 campaign and played 82 percent of his minutes at the ‘four’, according to basketball-reference.com.
Dieng averaged 10 points, 7.9 rebounds, and a caree- high 1.9 assists per game. The most impressive thing about his play, perhaps, is that he shot 37 percent from 3-point range on 43 attempts — more than doubling his previous career-high in attempts from long-range.
The former first-round draft pick has made a dramatic improvement in his game over the past few seasons and it doesn’t seem that he will be slowing down any time soon. He can produce quality minutes for this new and improved Timberwolves team.
This season could very well turn out to be a breakout season of sorts for Dieng, or he could find himself in a role very different than that which he’s used to being.
At this stage in the preseason, it seems as though Dieng will not start for the Timberwolves, due to the addition of Gibson.
So, of course, the best-case scenario for him would be him being the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year.
While there is a lot of competition on the Timberwolves bench (namely, the addition of Jamal Crawford and retention of Shabazz Muhammad), Dieng can make the argument that he is the most valuable piece of the bench. He will be the first big to backup Towns and Gibson and without a doubt is the Timberwolves backup center, given the amount of time that Cole Aldrich saw the court last season.
Dieng is an offensive-minded big man who can not only score in various ways, but has the physical tools to be a presence on defense as well. His defensive impact will be needed greatly coming off a Timberwolves bench which is comprised of players who aren’t known for their defensive capabilities.
Dieng could be a better rebounder, but there is certainly time for improvement. Dieng averaged 7.9 rebounds per game, and it is realistic for that number to improve. In fact, his rebounding numbers can improve simply because he won’t be on the floor with Karl Anthony Towns as much this season.
The Wolves drafted Dieng largely because of his ability to rebound and defend at the college level. Now that he has refined the rougher parts of his offense, there is no reason why he should not be a great two-way player.
The worst-case scenario for Dieng would be a decrease in efficiency.
Dieng has proven that he can be a produce quality minutes from both the power forward or center position, but his new role for the Timberwolves may require him to do more than he’s accustomed too.
He is going into the season as the best player to come off the bench for the Wolves, and he will have to play that way. This may lead to a drop in not only his numbers, but his shooting percentages as well.
Dieng has also worked very hard to be a reliable mid-range, and, more recently, 3-point shooter. While he may not shoot many threes, if Dieng were to lose that stroke, that can hurt him as well. The ability to shoot is a very valuable trait in the NBA, and Tom Thibodeau is surely counting on him to stretch the floor to some extent.
There isn’t a need to be a knockdown shooter at his position, but he must make the defense respect him. A lot of new weight will be added to Dieng’s shoulders going into the season.
Gorgui Dieng will be in a position that he’s never been in before, and it will be interesting to see how he responds to it.