Minnesota Timberwolves: Gorgui Dieng is playing his role

SACRAMENTO, CA - DECEMBER 12: Gorgui Dieng #5, Josh Okogie #20 and Tyus Jones #1 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA - DECEMBER 12: Gorgui Dieng #5, Josh Okogie #20 and Tyus Jones #1 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Minnesota Timberwolves big man Gorgui Dieng had a slow start to the season but has played much better of late and has an important role off the bench.

Big man Gorgui Dieng is in a midst of his massive four-year, $62.8 million contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He still has another two years left on the books, and nobody around the league would suggest that his deal is an attractive, team-friendly one.

Of course, the extension didn’t seem insane when it was initially signed as Dieng was a starter and the cap had recently risen drastically. In fact, Dieng even took somewhat of a discount and lowered his price because he enjoyed playing in Minneapolis so much.

However, when the team signed Taj Gibson and the market was depressed just a bit, Dieng’s playing time, and apparently his confidence as well, plummeted to an all-time low.

Gibson has played well and has become a fan favorite, but it has also come at the price of Dieng’s overall play. That can clearly be seen when looking at his stats over the years. Dieng looks like a completely different player when he was in the starting lineup versus the bench.

Here’s a look at his overall number’s throughout his career in Minnesota.

Per Game Table

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table

Ignoring his rookie season, Dieng  was a sure lock to contribute about 10 points and eight rebounds per game over the three years in which he was a regular starter and regular member of the rotation.

There was a lot that started to go missing when he went to the bench. His points, shooting percentages, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks all dropped off. At his best, Dieng has always been fundamentally sound (save for the excessive traveling violations) and played solid two-way basketball.

Dieng been coming off the bench over the last two seasons, which can be seen simply by looking at how quickly his minutes have dropped off. He also plays on a short leash, which is something that has been noted several times by Timberwolves TV analyst Jim Petersen on Fox Sports North broadcasts.

Over his last five games, however, the University of Louisville product has played well while the team has gone 3-2. In those games, he’s averaged 9.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and one steal per contest.

He’s also been much more efficient shooting the ball, averaging 61.8 percent from the field and going 1-for-3 from downtown (33.3 percent). The game seems to be coming easier for him, exuding confidence by making the right plays and hitting shots he hasn’t normally done as of late.

Not only has his efficiency scoring the ball gone up, but his advanced numbers have as well. This season he has averaged an offensive rating of 103.1 and a defensive rating of 102.

In the last five games, he has seen those number’s spike up to an offensive rating of 112.8 and a 100.6 defensive rating. The sample size of his success is small, of course, but this is the Dieng that was often seen before his move to the bench.

His improved play has been crucial when Karl-Anthony Towns goes to the bench and has largely corresponding with a dip in play from Towns.

Next. Reinvented Derrick Rose should be an All-Star. dark

Let’s hope that this version of Gorgui doesn’t leave and that fans can continue to see a confident Dieng as we head towards 2019.