Expected draft position: Mid-first round
SB Nation scouting report: Link
SB Nation big board ranking: No. 13.
Draft Express ranking: No. 14.
BF draft board ranking: No. 14.
College career: Gorgui Dieng's journey to the NBA draft is remarkable in so many ways. As part of one of the top 60 basketball players in Africa, Dieng dominated the Nike basketball camp, taking home MVP honors in 2009. He then made the move to the United States, without any family and without much cognition of the language or culture. He played out his senior year of high school at the renowned Huntington Prep, most notably home to one Andrew Wiggins before verbally committing to Rick Pitino's program at Louisville. The NCAA ruled Dieng ineligible, forbidding him from attending practices and individual workouts, but was later reversed due to the appeals process. And thus, Gorgui Dieng's college career began.
Dieng fit in like a glove in Pitino's matchup zone, quarterbacking what would be a historically-elite defense in his final season at Louisville. This scheme requires precise timing and communication, which primarily lies at the hands of the center. Two things Pitino loves -- reverting to the zone and pressing -- cannot be accomplished without a competent center at the helm calling out switches or telling his teammates to go back to man-to-man.
Dieng was at the center of it all. He's the one responsible for weakside help once a ball handler gets into the lane as well as keeping himself out of foul trouble, knowing the drop-off in production when he goes to the bench.
Pitino's scheme resulted in one of the country's stingiest defenses all across the board. They were first in creating turnovers while allowing their opponents to get up just 30 percent of their attempts at the rim. They finished fourth in the country in defensive rating according to Basketball-Reference, and no one was more integral to their success on this end as Gorgui Dieng.
He's now set to take on the NBA as the oldest player in his draft class at 23 years old (just 3 months ahead of Jeff Withey), and questions will certainly arise about how much potential is left untapped.
Gorgui Dieng 2013 NBA Draft Scouting Report Video (via DraftExpress)
Offense: Dieng will likely never be a first option in an NBA offense. He's rather stiff backing down defenders, looking somewhat robotic as he uses shot fakes as well as up and unders to fool his defender in the air. He has shown a nice touch on his hook shots from either shoulder, and does a solid job pinning his man deep in the paint while keeping a wide base, though the strength factor keeps him from consistently doing so against bulkier centers. He functions mostly from the high post, showcasing his advanced ability to pick apart defenses with his passes to cutters along the baseline. He's a good high-low partner and rarely misses an opportunity to ignite a fast break or find an open spot up shooter.
As good of a high post passer he is, he's below average as a ball handler. He struggles to score on drives to the basket, relegating him as a jump shooter or facilitator. But he's made strides on the former; he sports a high release, and has become quite consistent from the foul line area. He also has a knack for scoring off garbage plays around the rim. His athleticism allows him to finish above the rim regularly, which makes him a proficient in both rolls to the rim and in transition.
Defense: Dieng's has a large wingspan measured in at 7'4, and despite concerns with his strength, is an extremely physical presence down low that loves to push his man out of position in order to make the post-entry pass more difficult. He does get beat on hasty shot fakes when getting backed down, but it's something most young bigs get beat on as well. He'll take charges, hedge hard on screens while managing to recover to his man on time and challenge jump shots without committing senseless fouls.
He was also seen quite often switching onto guards, most notably in the championship game against Michigan, when he was caught on an island with Trey Burke and used his quick feet to stay in front of him, attesting to his soccer background.
But his bread and butter is in altering shots. He has an excellent blend of anticipation, leaping ability, quickness and motor, which sways many to opt for less efficient two-point jumpers rather than attempting something at the rim. His quickness is especially on display as he comes from the weakside to challenge a shot and when he crashes the glass from the high post. He's a master of crisp rotations, his hands are always in the passing lanes and he exudes a high basketball IQ by making the proper rotations and communicating with his teammates.
Gorgui Dieng / NCAA National Championship Highlights (via Kevin O'Connor)
Pro potential/Wizards fit: As I love to harp on, defense is the key in rookies receiving playing time early in the season. Dieng has the makings of a great defender and rebounder at the next level, though he'll undergo a bit of a learning curve as he acclimates himself to the speed and various nuances of NBA offenses. He won't be under a highly- structured defense such as Louisville that feasted on poor ball handlers and decision makers. Coaches won't afford him the luxury of hedging hard on every single pick and roll, and he'll learn to stay back on many of them in order to respect their driving ability. His offense will be his Achilles heel early on as well, and may be a liability to team devoid of much offensive talent.
But I think it's a bit premature labeling him with a low ceiling due to his age. He developed so quickly in the span of three years, and if he continues to build on his jump shot, it would open up a world of opportunity for him on offense. He's a quick learner as was the case with his transition from Senegal to Louisville in such a short time span, and under the right environment, could become a highly productive starter in this league.
It would be a nice change to see the Wizards draft a high-IQ big man for once, especially with Emeka Okafor still under contract. In many ways, I see the similarities between the two. Both come from highly-respected programs that won a national championship, and both pride themselves on anchoring the middle, though Okafor's bulkier frame makes him more of a traditional big rather than the athletic bigs that seem to come out of the draft recently.
But the Wizards would have to stay patient with Dieng. The transition may not be as seamless as I project, and I could very easily see Dieng struggle with foul trouble due to his jumpy-nature -- an issue both Larry Sanders and Serge Ibaka wrestled with early in their careers. But if they're willing to work with him and bring him along slowly, I'm all for finding a way to draft him.