Gorgui Dieng | 2013-14 Profile

Wolves center Gorgui Dieng became the first rookie in team history to produce a 20-20 game this season. He also became the fifth Wolves player to earn Rookie of the Month honors, joining Stephon Marbury, Randy Foye, Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio.
David Sherman & Jordan Johnson/NBAE/Getty Images
by Mark Remme
Web Editor
@markremme

Editor’s Note: Throughout the next month, Timberwolves.com will take a look back at the Wolves’ 2013-14 roster individually and look ahead to the upcoming offseason and 2014-15 campaign. Part II looks at center Gorgui Dieng’s rookie year.

--

Gorgui Dieng

C | 6-foot-11, 238 pounds

2013-14 season: 60 GP, 13.6 mpg, 4.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 49.8 FG%

Very similar to fellow rookie Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng didn’t get an immediate opportunity in games to make an impact for the 2013-14 Timberwolves. But he waited and stayed ready. Behind the scenes where others outside the team couldn’t see, Dieng was coming early to practices, shootarounds and pregame workouts. He was working on his post moves with Jack Sikma and his shooting with video coordinator Adam Johansen. And when the time came, Dieng made a huge impact.

And it didn’t surprise his teammates one bit.

“He doesn’t seem like a rookie,” guard Ricky Rubio said after Gorgui’s game-winner against the Rockets on April 11. “He’s confident. He thinks he’s Michael Jordan, and that’s a good thing. I’m not saying it in a bad way. I’m saying he’s confident, he works hard. I think ‘he’s confident’ is the right one, you know? A little cocky, but it’s fun.”

Dieng made big strides as a rookie. He started the season as a big who had trouble staying out of foul trouble, and that played a role in his limited minutes early on. It’s not an unusual thing to see—Nikola Pekovic had a similar transition period in his rookie year. But Dieng kept working, and when Pek missed extended time in March and April, he stepped in admirably.

He put up five double-doubles in his first six starts, compiled two 20-rebound games and became the first Wolves rookie in team history to record a 20-20 effort. He was rewarded for his production by becoming the fifth Timberwolves player to win Rookie of the Month honors in March, and he was nominated again in April—had he won, he would have become the first Wolves player to win the honor twice.

The key, if you ask around the Wolves locker room, is Dieng’s confidence. Like Rubio said, Gorgui believes he has what it takes to be successful. He’s been steadfast about that since he arrived in Minnesota last summer, and he’s continuously showcased two things: He’s humble and grateful for the chance to play in the NBA, and he has full confidence he can contribute on a nightly basis.

No arguments here.

“He’s got a little swag,” Corey Brewer said. “He’s got a little swag about himself. I like Gorgui, because J.J. [Barea]’s right, he feels like he can do it and he goes out there and does it. I like the swag.”

Gorgui Dieng’s Top Games

March 20 vs. Rockets: This one is about as easy as it gets. Gorgui put up 22 points and 21 rebounds against the Houston Rockets in late-March, and although the Wolves did not end up winning this game it will forever be a memorable effort in the franchise’s history. Dieng’s efforts marked the first time in team history a rookie put up a 20-20 game. His 21 rebounds were also a season-best for the Timberwolves in 2013-14. Of Gorgui’s 21 boards, eight came on the offensive end. He also notched four assists. Dieng began filling in for the injured Nikola Pekovic as the team’s starting center against Sacramento on March 16 and put up five double-doubles in his first six games. This 20-20 effort was his third career start.

April 11 vs. Rockets: We’re starting to see a theme here against Houston, aren’t we? For some reason, Dieng put up some of his best games against the Rockets during his rookie year. In this particular one, he scored 12 points and again put up 20 rebounds—and this time the Wolves won 112-110. While this game will forever be remembered as the night Corey Brewer exploded for 51 points, it was actually Dieng who scored the game-winner in the paint with four seconds to play. And his reaction to his first career game-winning shot was priceless—when Gorgui put up the shot, the Wolves and Rockets were tied 110-110: “It was just like, if I miss the shot we’ll go to overtime. So there was no pressure,” Dieng said. Brewer’s reaction was equally priceless: “He had freaking 20 rebounds again? He’s averaging like 20 rebounds against the Rockets!”

March 26 vs. Hawks: This was a game in which Dieng not only had a big night individually but the team came away with a victory over a playoff-bound Hawks squad. Minnesota won this game 107-83 at home, and Dieng once again put together a strong performance. He finished the night with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting while also collecting 15 rebounds—five on the offensive end. He was a team-high plus-25 on the floor, and in matching up with the Hawks’ interior Dieng helped keep Atlanta’s pair of centers, Pero Antic and Mike Muscala, in check with a combined 11 points on 7-of-13 shooting while collecting just eight boards. Dieng played a game-high 41 minutes in this one.

Top Offseason Objectives

Dieng is young and has the chance to make big strides this offseason. The first thing he needs to continue working on is keeping his hands up during defensive sets. He kept his hands down quite a bit early on in the season and it led to quick foul trouble. Later on he began keeping them in more active positions, but he can still continue working on that for the 2014-15 season.  He also proved he has a few offensive moves up his sleeve, including a baseline spin and a little mid-range game, and he can continue working on those areas to become more fine-tuned for next year. But overall, Dieng’s biggest thing to consider is working on getting adjusted to the speed of the NBA game. He was still adjusting at the end of his rookie year, and while he played sensational in the final month he will need to keep adjusting and playing with a faster tempo. The great thing about Gorgui is he has the drive to succeed and to get better, and there’s little doubt he’ll take another big jump in his development next season.

They Said It…

“I chose to be a professional basketball player, you know. My job is to be ready. I just want to win, and you just have to go with whoever you feel comfortable. But my job is to stay ready, and whenever they call my name, I will get in and contribute.” — Wolves center Gorgui Dieng