Gorgui Dieng earns the fourth-highest salary on the Minnesota Timberwolves books but doesn’t figure to play that much. Let’s look at some potential options for Dieng this season.
Last season, Gorgui Dieng played the exact same minutes per game as he did in his rookie season. With youth and rejuvenation the clear trend with the Minnesota Timberwolves, there is very little space for Gorgui to fit in.
Dieng has two years left on the deal that he signed in fall of 2017. With the annual contract value increasing each year, the 2020-21, campaign clocks in at roughly $17.2 million. For the Timberwolves, that is money that could go otherwise towards a top-tier free-agent or support on the wing.
The first and simplest option is to Dieng and re-energize his play style. To me, this is much easier said than done. Gorgui’s name has surely been tossed in the trade conversation more than once. After seeing his role dramatically reduced over the past two years, it is difficult to ask a player to recommit themselves, especially if they have begun to check out mentally.
We see it all over the league, once a player has the mindset of departure, that is usually the only viable route. New additions Jake Layman and Jordan Bell will directly take minutes away from Dieng, giving the appearance of smaller, more fast-paced lineup as the game plan.
Potential trade destinations for Dieng
The best option is to trade him. There are a few teams that could use a big man like Dieng. The first, and possibly most surprising option, is the Cleveland Cavaliers. With young guards Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, a pick-and-roll-capable big man like Gorgui Dieng compliments the young points guards elegantly.
A move with the Raptors works as a safety valve for the aging Gasol, who has had injuries in the past and recently went down hard in a FIBA exhibition game. Rather than scrambling to scoop a reserve in free agency, they could send the Timberwolves a future draft pick and possibly some cash to secure a solid back-up center for the next two seasons.
Then, there’s the San Antonio Spurs. Jakob Poetl has not quite panned out, and even with LaMarcus Aldridge, the Spurs were No. 21 in the league in rebounding last year. The only offseason frontcourt addition, Trey Lyles, isn’t a plus on the glass.
The Spurs could benefit from another big man willing to bang. A possible trade would be a one-for-one for aforementioned Poetl or similar trade as the Raptors, a future pick with cash.
Gorgui’s contract is not an albatross. He is still a more than serviceable backup center that fills needs for all of the mentioned teams. At roughly $32 million over the next two years, if he is inserted into a spot where he is getting 22-28 minutes per game, that salary appears much less daunting.
Further, a solid, mobile, defensively sound center with some ability to hit from outside the paint is not a common occurrence. Dieng’s skill set is unique and he still has a lot to give.
The last option is a buy-out, the least appealing of all options. The situation with Dieng is not dire. Executing this option does not resolve salary cap issues and does not free up much money. It is also an exhausting process and there is no guarantee the sides can come to an agreement. Moreover, it runs the risk of damaging relations beyond all repair.
Overall, there is some flexibility for the Minnesota Timberwolves in relation to Gorgui Dieng. Personally, I think a trade should be considered sooner than later. There is space for Gorgui to play within the current roster, but there is a general vibe that he is out the door.
With realistic trade destinations out there, the Minnesota Timberwolves should dig deep and find a potential spot that works to benefit both Dieng and the Wolves.