Minnesota Timberwolves Review: Gorgui Dieng

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 01: Gorgui Dieng #5 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 01: Gorgui Dieng #5 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

Minnesota Timberwolves big man Gorgui Dieng‘s roller coaster ride took another series of dips and climbs in 2018-19, but he finished the campaign on a strong note.

Through no fault of his own, Gorgui Dieng earned a massive contract extension from the Minnesota Timberwolves as the NBA salary cap exploded prior to the 2016-17 season.

Now, Dieng is seen as a massively overpaid backup center. But his salary — he is overpaid, after all — belies his true value.

While some may look at Dieng and immediately assign the label of “outdated” to the 7-footer in this, the age of small-ball and stretch 4s and 5s, the Wolves big man possesses a few skills that are still vital in today’s NBA and carry important value.

Dieng is a fantastic pick-and-roll defender for a true 7-footer and was a solid fit for former head coach Tom Thibodeau’s defensive scheme. Not much changed defensively for the Wolves after interim head coach Ryan Saunders took the reigns in early January — except for giving up more points, that is — but it remains to be seen what the new head coach, whether it’s Saunders or anyone else, might install on that end of the floor moving forward.

Dieng is still a strong offensive rebounder, too. He finished in the top 15 in the NBA in offensive rebounding percentage in each of his two seasons as a regular starter. Dieng has also been extremely reliable, virtually never missing games due to injury and only falling victim to handful of DNP-CDs during Thibodeau’s reign.

After averaging 10 points and 7.5 rebounds per game over two full seasons of 82 games with roughly three-quarters of them as a starter next to Karl-Anthony Towns, Dieng was relegated to a role as Towns’ backup over the past two seasons following the signing of Taj Gibson.

As Towns earned more minutes and the Wolves faced more teams deploying small-ball lineups, Dieng’s playing time dwindled. That led to a small step back in production and overall performance in 2017-18 and early last year, but Dieng improved as the season went on. He found more playing time under Saunders, too, and even started two games for the first time since 2016-17 late in the season after Towns was shut down with a sore knee.

Overall, Dieng’s scoring ticked upwards to 6.4 points per game and his field goal percentage bounced back to 50.1 percent, which is back in line with his career mark of 50.5 percent following a career-worst 47.9 percent in 2017-18.

Dieng also continued to work on his 3-point shot, making 42.9 percent of his attempts from the corners, which was a big bounce-back from his 29.8 percent showing from the corners during the prior season. While the number of attempts were relatively low, it’s an important floor-stretching weapon for Dieng to possess and can certainly come in handy.

Overall, Dieng provided solid production as a backup center despite playing a career-low 13.6 minutes per game. While overpaid, Dieng remains one of the better all-around backup big men in the league. He still has two years remaining on his deal and is almost surely still untradeable, however, so it seems likely that he’s in a Wolves uniform for at least one, if not two more seasons.

While it was a disappointing season for Dieng in terms of opportunity and raw production, he remains a good player and might have the opportunity to play more minutes at power forward alongside Towns come next season assuming Gibson departs via free agency.

dark. Next. The best coaches the Wolves could pair with Towns

Next up in the player review series: Anthony Tolliver.