It might not happen this year, but there are multiple reasons why it is only a matter of time before Gorgui Dieng of the Minnesota Timberwolves becomes an All-Star center. Dieng hails from Senegal, and was drafted 21st overall in the 2013 NBA draft after playing three years of college basketball at the University of Louisville. He has only played one year for the Timberwolves, but he demonstrated at the end of last season that he has the tools to be a dominant NBA center.
Reason number one: The first reason that Dieng will develop into an All-Star center is that his stats already put him close to the stats of the best NBA centers. Roy Hibbert and Dwight Howard both made their respective All-Star teams last year and their statistics per 36 minutes are very close to Dieng’s. Last year, Hibbert per 36 minutes averaged 13.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.7 blocks, while Howard stats per 36 were 19.5 points, 13.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. In contrast, Dieng 12.6 points, 13.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per 36 minutes. As you can see, Dieng’s stats are close or better to the stats of Howard and Hibbert with the exception of Howard scoring a bit more than Dieng per 36 minutes.
Reason number two: Dieng is a young player who is still learning how to play in the NBA. Dieng is only 24 years old and just finished his first year in the NBA. He still has some work to do offensively and will also continue to develop his overall game as he gains more experience as a big part of the Timberwolves’ rotation this year.
Reason number three: The Timberwolves roster will give Dieng the game experience he needs to improve and the personnel on the court will also help Dieng put up the stats of a great center. Offensively, someone needs to take the points that Kevin Love previously put up and while Andrew Wiggins and Thaddeus Young will surely make up some of those points, Dieng will also be counted on to put up points as he gets more playing time. Also he will have many opportunities for rebounds as he will be able to corral the missed shots of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Wiggins who will probably struggle to shoot a high percentage in his first year. Finally while Rubio isn’t a great shooter, he is an amazing passer and he will give Dieng many opportunities to pick up easy baskets when Rubio does a drive and dish.
Reason number four: The center position isn’t very strong right now, especially when you consider centers that are exclusively centers. Also even centers that are good like the Timberwolves own Nikola Pekovic, often aren’t that strong on the defensive end, where Dieng is a monster on defense, as he is an athletic center standing 6’11” with a 7’4” wingspan.
Reason number five: In Dieng’s very young career he has already shown flashes of greatness going against some of the best big men in the league. Against Sacramento Kings and Demarcus Cousins, Dieng put up 21 points and 14 rebounds. In one game against the Houston Rockets and Howard, Dieng scored 22 points and tallied an impressive 21 rebounds.
With consistent playing time, the young Dieng will continue to develop with the rest of the Timberwovles young roster and turn into a dominant center that will anchor the defense and control the glass for a team that will be gunning for the playoffs in a year or two.