Gorgui Dieng is only in his second year for the Minnesota Timberwolves, but the backup center is making a case to become a major asset in the future.Dieng’s numbers are pretty modest when compared to other players around the league. His numbers get a little better when you compare them against other centers. Sure, he has started 38 games this season, but he doesn’t even average 30 minutes per contest.
But when you look closely and see that Dieng is one of two centers in the NBA to rank in the top 10 in rebounds, assists, blocks and free throw percentage, you wouldn’t believe it.
But he is. Marc Gasol is the only other center to rank in the top 10 in those categories.
Which begs the question. Is Dieng working himself towards a huge payday? I wrote an article back in October, listing 10 players who are very close to getting, not max contracts, but very lucrative deals in the near future. Dieng was certainly on that list. I probably should of added Shabazz Muhammad, too.
The reasons I thing Dieng is extremely valuable, even more valuable than Nikola Pekovic and his $12 million per season, are simple.
1. Health – Dieng has always been healthy and even played when he was hurt. It might say that Dieng played in only 60 games last season, and he did, but it wasn’t because he was hurt. It was because Rick Adelman didn’t want to use and didn’t think he was ready. I think he proved Adelman wrong the last month and a half of the season when he put up very good numbers, including 12 points and 11 rebounds per game in April. Dieng being healthy and playing is more useful to the Timberwolves than Pekovic playing for a week, then missing two weeks, then playing a week, then missing three weeks. I think it’s clear; Pekovic won’t be with the team next season, especially if the Timberwolves land Jahlil Okafor.
2. Good defender – While advanced statistics and people like Zach Lowe say otherwise, I think Dieng is a solid defender. No he isn’t what Dwight Howard used to be, but he is still more than serviceable when it comes to protecting the paint. He averages nearly two blocks per game and his block percentage ranks him 21st in the league, among players who have played at 20 games (and that’s being lenient to those players). I like that he tries hard when defending pick-and-rolls by not letting opposing guards get around him to go to the basket. Yes, he does get beat. But he also has his share of recovery blocks. He is also a very good rebounder, even when Kevin Love was on the team.
3. Improving – He is improving and there is no question about it. His offensive game is still very raw, but he has added a 15-foot jumper and a turnaround bank shot, two things he didn’t have last season. And on a team where he is probably the last option on offense, even with Pekovic, Kevin Martin, and Ricky Rubio out, he is averaging nearly 10 points per game.
4. Effort – He plays hard. I watch all the games. I can tell when a guy plays hard, and Dieng certainly does. Does it always lead to the best results? Clearly not, look at the Timberwolves record. But you can’t fault a guy for trying to do his best on a team that has been torn apart by injuries.
When his rookie contract is up, I hope the Timberwolves keep Dieng. I hope they sign him to a long-term contract because I enjoy watching him play, I think he is good, and I think he will continue to get better. I’m not saying he will become an All-Star.
But I think he will become a very good NBA player.