There are lots of great centers in this year’s draft; Nerlens Noel being the main man out of guys like Cody Zeller, Alex Len, Kelly Olynyk, Dario Saric, Jeff Withey, and lots more. In this post, I’ll be discussing the Senegalese, Gorgui Dieng, the full-grown center from Louisville.
Dieng’s journey to America is a pretty interesting one, to say the least. He attended the prestigious Huntington Prep school in West Virginia, the same prep school that nurtured the most hyped prospect since Lebron James/presumed first overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft from the University of Kansas, Andrew Wiggins et al. In 2010, the NCAA ruled Dieng ineligible, not letting him attend individual workouts and practices. Of course, Louisville had to repeal the decision. They did, and the NCAA reversed it, and Dieng’s college career begun. Louisville coach, Rick Pitino, complemented his attitude and his defensive strengths, and made him the officer of the Cardinals zone defense, quarterbacking it throughout the whole season. Think of it this way: Dieng is to Louisville as Tyson Chandler is to the Knicks; both of them were/are anchors of their defenses, and had/have total control over them.
Dieng has a massive 7’4 wingspan. If he stood in my house hallway, his arms would almost extend from the beginning to the end of the hallway. When talking about defensive adroitness, Dieng was the most adroit out of all Louisville defenders. He logged a team-leading-by-a-mile 2.5 BPG, and lead the big East in blocks the year before that, as well as leading the Big East in defensive rating with a cool, astounding 81.7 DRtg. That’s impressive. If you’re driving into the lane, you should make sure to watch out for Dieng’s flailing arms, you’ll either get smacked, or annihilated. Watching him this year, Dieng did get beat on hasty post moves and shot fakes, but those are mistakes every big man makes, whether they’re mistimed jumps, or allowing and-ones. No one is perfect. If you watch game film from this year, it happened to him as much more than it did in his junior year and in his sophomore year.
For Dieng, paint defending is his bread and butter. Obviously, big men are paint defenders; it’s a given. But in some aspects, Dieng can defend the perimeter. He has fast feet, and defensive fundamentals that he can apply while defending lightning fast guards, i.e on Trey Burke in the Final Four title game in case he ever has to switch onto them (Paging Mike Woodson). It is a rarity to see a big man play perimeter defense, but that’s a very underrated part of Dieng’s defensive skill set. As a kid, Dieng used to play soccer, which is the principal reason why he has chop-chop feet.
Dieng took one giant step from his freshman year with his offensive game. Offensively, if you were to compare Dieng’s jump shot to someone in the NBA right now, in terms of lethal mid-range jump shot, it would be David West. Before that, Dieng’s offensive skill set was hampered; the only way for him to score was off of putbacks and transition baskets. Since then, the spot-up mid-range game he’s been working on has been his main source of scoring. Using him as a stretch-four or even a stretch-five (maybe) would spread the floor immensely. Dieng does have a hook shot, but he isn’t the most reliable guy to go to for one-on-one moves, such as being in the post, but that’s if the post is being used excessively. If Dieng were to develop a post game and more muscle, a team can consider using him in post situations more often, which would enable him to stop facing the basket too often.
I mentioned this in Jeff Withey’s profile; much like Jeff Withey, Dieng’s age is a problem. He’s the same age as him, at 23. As a matter of fact, he’s the second oldest player in this draft behind only Withey. That doesn’t take away the fact that Dieng’s experience is in the upper echelon of draft prospects, as his stats increased greatly, but again, his upside can be perceived in copious, negative ways. I tend to disagree with people that say Dieng’s upside is low, because his ceiling went from the abyss to sky high in a matter of two full seasons. Besides, the transition he made from Senegal to Louisville was a huge transition for him to make, and he did it.
In most mock drafts, Dieng is projected to be a mid-first rounder. It’ll be interesting to see how Dieng will get his first NBA minutes; as a back-up center, or a starting center. His age takes that into account. The Knicks may not even have a chance to pick him at 24, according to most mock drafts, but if he’s still up on the board, then the Knicks should absolutely, without a question, draft him.