Height/weight: 6'11", 245 pounds
Hometown: Kebemer, Senegal
B/R Draft Projection: Round 1, Pick No. 23 by New York Knicks
2012-13 Stats: 30.9 MPG, 10.2 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 2.5 BPG, 53% FG, 24.4 PER
Louisville's 2013 Final Four run wouldn't have been possible without low-post anchor and dominant shot-blocker Gorgui Dieng.
The junior center has developed into much more than a rim-protector, and consequently, the Cardinals are a feared NCAA title contender and he's a legitimate NBA prospect.
Throughout the 2013 tournament, Dieng has showcased his increasingly efficient offensive game to accompany his lethal defense. In the heavyweight Elite Eight showdown with Duke, Dieng notched 14 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
Ruling the paint in college is one thing, but how do these exploits translate to the NBA?
Dieng's accomplishments as a stopper and rebounder are strong selling points for pro executives and coaches.
He's a terrific help defender, a weak-side shot-swatter who covers a lot of ground when aiding his teammates. A strong frame, 7'6" wingspan and superb mobility help him get the job done.
In one-on-one situations, he's just as effective, using his length, footwork and anticipation to thwart frontcourt attackers. Dieng's consistent defensive performance earned him the best defensive rating (79.9) in the Big East in 2012-13. He did this while maintaining a tidy 2.5 fouls per game.
He doesn't own the surest pair of mitts, but he rebounds well because he works for position and knows how to use his length.
Scoring isn't his forte, but he's taken tremendous strides the last couple seasons. Rim-running is his most powerful weapon, especially in pick-and-rolls or fast breaks. He's tough to defend when he has room to catch the ball and rise up for a slam.
Dieng's jump shot isn't categorized as a "strength," but it's certainly not a glaring weakness anymore. He's comfortable flashing to the high post or elbow extended and taking 15-footers. Once he speeds up his shooting motion, he'll be able to utilize his mid-range shot regularly in the NBA.
Weaknesses and Adjustments
Between now and the draft, Dieng must continue to improve the polish and fluidity of his advanced post moves.
He's still somewhat deliberate, struggles to finish with his left and lacks quick moves.
With his back is to the basket, he tends to power dribble and turn for a right-handed baby hook. Even when he does turn toward the left side of the hoop, he finishes with both hands instead of an extended left.
To earn substantial playing time in the NBA, he needs to prove that he can execute three or four different moves in the paint. His up-and-under is developing, but it needs to be accompanied by a left-handed option.
Dieng's age is another factor that doesn't help his draft stock. He's a 23-year-old junior, so his long-term value in the NBA isn't as high as a 21-year-old junior's would be.
NBA scouts love the fact that he's mature, works in the trenches on defense and does the little things on offense to make his team better.
Dieng will probably never be a star in the association, but he could be a solid plus/minus guy because of his hard work and court awareness. He moves well without the ball, is a willing passer and a tenacious pursuer of rebounds.
His noticeable and gradual growth as a post player at Louisville gives hope that he'll continue to evolve in his first few NBA years.
Expect him to be a high-energy, impact role player in the pros, one who's coachable and eager to compete nightly. If you have any doubts about Dieng's intangibles and motivation, here are his thoughts prior to the regional final vs. Duke (via Louisville WDRB columnist Eric Crawford):
This Gorgui Dieng quote is too long for Twitter, but for those waiting for the philosophical Dieng, here you go … twitter.com/ericcrawford/s…— Eric Crawford (@ericcrawford) March 30, 2013
NBA Player Comparison
Dieng fits into the category of players who are magnificent athletes and shot-blockers, but a bit raw offensively early in their careers.
With that mindset, it's easy to see the connection to Serge Ibaka. The Oklahoma City Thunder star is an elite defensive player who has grown from an offensive afterthought to a viable option.
Dieng might actually be a savvier rookie than Ibaka when it comes to moving without the ball and hitting jumpers.
Worst case: Rich man's version of Bismack Biyombo
Best case: More offensively ready version of Serge Ibaka
Ideal NBA Role
Entering the NBA, Dieng would be best served as a bench player who's the fourth or fifth scoring option while on the floor.
Once he gets acclimated to the pro style and pace (end of rookie year, beginning of sophomore year), he could play center for 20-25 minutes and be the third or fourth scoring option. In his role, he'd often be relied upon as a defensive specialist.
Ideally, the team he joins would already have a low-post offensive weapon. Depending on how many touches Dieng gets, he should aim for four to seven field-goal attempts per game.
Within three years, his optimal progress would include a starting role, double-digit scoring and eight-plus rebounds.
Overall 2013 Draft Outlook
Louisville's march through the tournament and Dieng's productivity will likely be enough to boost him into the first round.
He has significant NBA potential, but not enough upside or youth to warrant a top-10 selection. Suitors will love his size, rim protection, rebounding and mid-range shot, so he could possibly break into the top 20.
His most probable landing spot is between picks 20 and 30. Two clubs looking for interior depth and shot-blocking are the Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix Suns. Lob City would love his rebounding and hustle, and Phoenix would love him for pretty much everything he does.
Keep an eye on his Final Four matchup with the undersized frontcourt of Wichita State. Will he have a monster game and lift his draft stock even more?