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Gorgui Dieng Got His Confidence Back In 2018-19
As we recap the 2018-19 Timberwolves season, our Kyle Ratke and Julian Andrews will be taking a look at each player on the roster and how we'll remember their season. We continue with center Gorgui Dieng.
KR: Dieng’s numbers for the entire 2018-19 are somewhat misleading.
As a whole, it was an up and down season. Dieng averaged 6.4 points and 4.1 rebounds while playing 13.6 minutes per game, the lowest since his rookie season in 2013-14.
More than anything, this is about how Dieng ended his season. In the final eight games, Dieng averaged 14.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per game while shooting 55.2 percent from the field and 50 percent from the 3-point line.
Per 36 minutes, Dieng averaged a career-high 16.9 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.7 steals during the season. I think that’s significant. He’s learning how to be effective in short bursts of time.
Dieng’s unique game of midrange jumpers (he shot 45.2 percent from three to 10 feet last season and 45.5 percent from 16 feet to the 3-point line) made him a good fit with the team’s second unit late in the season. From the elbow, Dieng is dangerous in the fake dribble handoff game where his defender needs to decide to help on the player cutting to the basket or take away Dieng’s midrange shot. He’s also not afraid to launch from deep. He hit 19 of 56 3-pointers (33.9 percent) on the season.
It’s no secret that Interim Head Coach Ryan Saunders gave Dieng the confidence that he needed and that showed down the stretch. Communication played a big part in this. Dieng hit double digits in seven of the last eight games, including a 19-point performance in a win over the Heat and two 18-point performances.
Dieng struggled to find his rhythm in 2017-18. His minutes were inconsistent, and he wasn’t exactly sure of his role. After starting all 82 games the previous season and playing 32.4 minutes per game, Dieng started no games the next season and saw his minutes per game drop to 16.9.
His role for the 2019-20 season has yet to be determined, but Dieng showed the NBA that can be an impactful player in the right situation.
JA: It’s a really hard thing to be effective when you’re not sure what your role is going to be game to game, but Dieng made the most of his situation. Late in the season, he emerged as an interesting option for the Wolves’ second-unit offense. He’s obviously not the same player as Karl-Anthony Towns, but to be able to have a big who can shoot on the floor at all times is valuable.
Dieng also looked good on defense for stretches this season. He has closing speed around the rim that surprises his opponents and helps him get blocks. His release on his shot is slow but effective. Midrange looks may not be good shots for most bigs but those are actually shots the Wolves are comfortable with Dieng taking.
It’s also worth noting Dieng’s impact in the community and in his home country of Senegal. Dieng has been extremely generous his entire NBA career and is constantly using his position to give back to others who are less fortunate than him. This wasn’t his most statistically productive season, but Dieng has never lost sight of the fact that there are many things bigger than basketball. He deserves to be commended for that. Dieng is also great in the Wolves locker room and supporting his teammates. That’s tough when you’re struggling but it’s a testament to his character.
Next season, Dieng should build on what he found at the end of this season. His confidence in himself is unwavering, which is important for a bench player. He just has to make sure he’s channeling that every night. He’s shown he can be a productive player, he just has to keep focused and keep growing.