There is much belief that the Hawks will look to select a big man in the upcoming draft with one of their consecutive selections in the first round. This should hold true regardless of what manifests during the upcoming free agency period. So with that, Danny Ferry will be looking at which prospects fit around the current franchise centerpiece Al Horford. Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng appears to be a more complimentary fit in comparison to other potential mid-round prospects such as Kelly Olynyk or Mason Plumlee. The possible synergy that could exist between Dieng and Horford on the floor makes him easily one of the best options for Hawks to draft out of the mid-round front court talent pool.
Measurements: The first thing to take note of is Gorgui’s age. Being 23, he is one of the oldest prospects in the draft. Conjointly, he is probably one of the most skilled players that could go in the middle of the first round, meaning he’ll be one of the more “NBA ready” guys that the Hawks can take. Dieng’s body measures in accordance to the lanky shot blocker mold that is becoming a more familiar commodity around the NBA. He is 6′ 10.75″ tall, with a nice 7′ 3.5″ wingspan. This kind of height and length could very easily translate into him being a solid shot blocker and defender around the rim at the next level. He weighs in at 230 pounds, which at first seems slim. However, this may be more pertinent to his prominent 5.4% body fat than anything; even if Gorgui is “thinner” than some similar prospects of this mold, which he seems to have more girth compared to guys like John Henson, Larry Sanders, and others, he still seems very strong in the post with his muscular build. Dieng didn’t participate in other drills at the combine, being held out due to an ankle injury that won’t require surgery.
Offensive Style: Dieng isn’t a player that you can base an offensive around, much like the Louisville offense wasn’t. However, in the limited role akin to his college one he can be a very efficient player on this end of the court. Between finishing easy attempts at the rim, or being able to roll of a screen and attack the basket vigorously, Dieng is very good close to the hoop. He shot 72% at the rim, which compares favorably to other big men in the draft such as Cody Zeller (66%) and Steven Adams (68%). On top of that, Gorgui is a useful option as a mid-range shooter both, as a spot up shooter creating space and coming off setting a pick and popping the open jumper. His 39% field goal percentage from these shots isn’t jaw dropping, but it is a solid enough number compared to some of the other options in the draft. With just slight improvement to around 42%, Dieng develops as an option from that part of the floor teams can’t just mindlessly ignore. As a scorer, he is a very fine complimentary player, and where he is projected to go in the draft that works very well. The added bonus nevertheless is Gorgui is a very good passer for his size, which can bode well for teams looking to move the ball a decent amount. Off the offensive glass, he is also a strong competitor. In his senior year, he boasted a 12.9% offensive rebounding percentage, meaning he got an offensive rebound on about one out of every eight Louisville misses. If this rate was able to translate to the pros, it would compare favorably to Zaza Pachulia.
Defensive Style: This is the side of the floor Dieng shines, being one of the best defensive players in all of college basketball last season. Dieng is a stout shot blocker, but doesn’t compromise defensive positioning to do so. In his second season at Louisville he actually had more blocks than this season, but would often be caught over-pursuing, resulting in easy hoops. Gorgui was much more oriented in rim protection last year however, and it paid off as the team won the National Championship and lowered it’s already top ten defensive rating down 2.8 points to an 87.1 mark. He became much more of a defensive anchor to build around than just a highlight film player on defense last year, and that could be fruitful for the potential franchises who draft him. On top of contesting shots, Dieng also has quick hands to pilfer the ball from opposing players. This is an under appreciated skill for big men in today’s game, but being able to force turnovers on top of blocking shots will be a very valuable asset. Dieng is also a sturdy competitor as a defensive rebounder, and should be a very good player at the next level in that facet of the game. Overall, Gorgui is a fantastic player on this side of the court and could be a difference maker in the years to come.
Team Fit: One of the team’s biggest priorities when drafting a big man – as stated earlier – is being able to play with Al Horford. This requires being able to finish at or near the rim with extreme efficiency. Dieng is a great finisher close to the basket, and would be able to play there with Horford operating in the high post. On the defensive end, Dieng would also fair well with Horford; both are athletic and could guard expansive space together. This could work out great as both can take on a pick and roll or help defend down low. His passing in Budenholzer’s system would be a very valuable asset to have, as ball movement should be vital between all five players on the floor. Between his versatility with how he can attack in a pick and roll and his ability to pass, Dieng is a great fit overall in what the Hawks should be looking to do offensively next season. Which means regardless of if Josh Smith or an incoming free agent takes the other spot next to Horford, there is still more than likely room on the Hawks roster for the Louisville product to come off the bench. So long as Atlanta is in a similar position in the draft when the time comes to pick, it would seem as if there aren’t many better fits in the potential batch of front court prospects than Gorgui Dieng.