The starting center for the national champion Louisville Cardinals, Gorgui Dieng, saw his draft stock soar over the final portion of the season.
Dieng's signature game of the NCAA tournament came in the Elite Eight, when he went for 14 points, 11 boards and four blocks in a convincing win over Mason Plumlee and Duke.
He's always been considered a rim protector, but over the course of his junior year he's shown he has much more to offer. We currently project Dieng as a late first-round pick, though the arrow is pointing up and there's room for him to make a push up the board.
Dieng sports a massive wingspan in the 7'4'' to 7'6'' range. And at 6'11'', Dieng essentially eats space in the paint like a giant refrigerator in a tiny kitchen.
He's not the most explosive athlete, but Dieng is deceptively agile, with the ability to elude defenders and contest arms at the rim. In terms of strength, there's still room for added bulk on his upper and lower body, but this shouldn't be a problem as he ages and develops physically.
Though his scoring numbers won't suggest it, Dieng expanded his offensive services dramatically from his days as a freshman. Strictly just a catch-and-finisher at the rim just a few years ago, Dieng's interior instincts and overall feel have improved with more reps.
He's able to finish when covered now, with the ability to counter the defensive contest.
Dieng has also showed the ability to face the rim with room to operate. He's got a nice bounce to his step, and with his improved feel for the game, he is able to adjust on the move. Watch Dieng square up against his defender, take him off the dribble and convert an off-balance shot using his high release point and excellent body control:
What really stood out during the NCAA tournament was Dieng's improved high-post jump shot. Dieng was a reliable target in the drive-and-dish game, catching and shooting without hesitation.
Check out Dieng's confidence, as he lets it go without even thinking:
This could really be the difference between Dieng making a team and landing a rotation spot. Guys like Nazr Mohammed have lasted a long time because of their ability to differentiate themselves with a reliable mid-range game.
Dieng's awareness of what's around him is on-point. He's got excellent vision, with the ability to facilitate from the post and find the open man.
Dieng averaged two assists per game this year. Take a look at a few of his pretty dimes:
You don't need to be an NBA scout to realize Dieng's appeal as a rim protector. Considering his physical tools, it would be hard for him not to block shots inside.
Dieng does happen to have excellent instincts to go along with his top-notch defensive tools. His footwork looks good, which puts him in position to challenge shots at the high post and swat them down low. Dieng averaged 2.5 blocks as a junior and 3.2 as a sophomore.
Dieng isn't much of a shot-creator. He's not a guy teams will look to feed the ball to into the post. This pretty much caps his upside, though he's an excellent play-finisher (as opposed to a playmaker).
He also only shot 65 percent from the free-throw line.
Adding strength and post moves while continuing to work on his mid-range stroke should be the goals moving forward.
NBA Outlook and Draft Analysis
A safe projection for Dieng is as a backup center, an available position for a number of NBA teams.
He sat out the combine after spraining his ankle, though he's back working out and his draft stock remains intact. If Dieng can show teams he's more skilled offensively than his production at Louisville suggests, it might sway a general manager to reach in the late lottery.
Oklahoma City would be the most likely if that happened, with Atlanta, Chicago and New York all potential suitors as well.
Dieng should have a chance to compete right away for a spot in a rotation because of his size, length, defensive instincts and offensive efficiency.
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