The Atlanta Hawks have kept their pre-draft workings quiet. With this summer’s NBA Draft nearly upon us, it’s anyone’s guess who the Hawks will select when they are called on to make their first-round picks at #17 and #18.
Many assume the Hawks will be looking to add size to the roster. This is a logical assumption considering there is a chance that key big men from this past season (Zaza Pachulia, Johan Petro, Ivan Johnson) could all be lost when free agency begins on July 1.
By drafting a big man, the Hawks would be giving themselves some assurance that their roster will have at least some size to throw at opposing teams.
This year’s draft does offer a variety of players who could help the Hawks in this area. I profiled Duke University’s Mason Plumlee earlier this month. He is a true center, usually plays physical, and has a chance to have a successful NBA career. As I mentioned in the write up, he would be a worthy pick for the Atlanta Hawks. But, there are other big men in the draft who could potentially help the Hawks should Plumlee not be available or the team just decides to pick someone else.
One such player is from the National Champion University of Louisville, Gorgui Dieng.
Gorgui Dieng (pronounced GOR-gee Jieng) is big. The Cardinals center stands at 6’11″, weighs 245 lbs., and possess a 7’4″ wingspan. During his successful three-year collegiate career, Dieng helped Louisville win two Big East Championships (2012, 2013), earn back-to-back trips to the Final Four, and win the 2013 National Title.
Dieng’s performance in this year’s NCAA Tournament was impressive, minus Louisville’s Final Four game against Wichita State (to be fair, the entire Louisville team looked disinterested in the Shockers). Here are his 2013 NCAA Tournament numbers:
- Game 1 (vs NCA&T, 79-48): 20 minutes, 8 pts. (3-3 shooting), 7 rebs., 1 block
- Game 2 (vs Colorado St, 82-56): 25 minutes, 12 pts. (6-6 shooting), 3 rebs., 1 block
- Game 3 (vs Oregon, 77-69): 34 minutes, 10 pts. (5-7 shooting), 9 rebs., 4 blocks
- Game 4 (vs Duke, 85-63): 25 minutes, 14 pts. (6-8 shooting), 11 rebs., 4 blocks
- Game 5 (vs Wichita St, 72-68): 30 minutes, 0 pts. (0-1 shooting), 6 rebs., 2 blocks
- Game 6 (vs Michigan, 82-76): 37 minutes, 8 pts. (4-6 shooting), 8 rebs., 3 blocks
I made a point to add in Dieng’s shooting statistics. Going into this past season his ability to shoot was in question. He improved in that area a great deal, starting at the mid-point of this season. In his last eight games prior to the Tournament, Dieng shot 53% (39-73) from the field. He improved upon those numbers in the tourney, shooting a combined 77.4% (24-31) from the field. Not all of those shots were taken at the rim, either. Dieng developed a reliable mid-range jump shot and connected on many of those shots throughout the tournament.
Even though Dieng is a center, he often plays out of the high post. In nearly all of Louisville’s offensive sets, he begins either at the free-throw line or setting a pick just beyond the arc. Not very often was he asked to set up shop down low, like normal centers. Once Dieng gets the ball in the high post, he is effective. One of his greatest strengths is delivering the ball to the correct man after catching the ball at the free throw line, turning, and finding a cutting or open teammate.
Dieng also excelled as an offensive rebounder. This year’s Louisville team featured two outstanding guards (Russ Smith and Peyton Siva) who would often use a pick from Dieng to attack the basket. Dieng would follow behind either Smith or Siva and aggressively go after the ball should a shot miss.
Defensively, Dieng is an exceptional player. He is a true “team player”, more than willing to slide over to help a teammate. He blocked 267 shots in his Louisville career, but impacted countless others. Dieng also is quick enough to defend against other teams guards on the perimeter. In this season’s National Championship game, against Michigan, Dieng guarded Trey Burke (more than once) and was able to stay with the likely lottery pick without any trouble. On one occasion (as will be shown when we look at Dieng’s scouting video), Dieng blocked Burke’s shot as the Michigan star attempted to drive by to the basket. There is little doubt that Dieng will be an effective defensive player in the NBA.
The Gorgui Dieng scouting video:
- 1:42 — An example of Dieng following as the Louisville guard attacks the basket. This time, Dieng follows into the lane, gets the pass, and lays in a basket over our friend Mason Plumlee.
- 2:38 — Again, Dieng starts at the high post, sets a pick, and follows his teammate into the lane. This time, he rips the ball away from the opposing player and scores.
- 2:50 — Gorgui makes a HUGE play in the National Title Game. The Cardinals are down 12, Dieng dives after a loose ball and calls timeout. What happens? Well, the Cardinals outscore Michigan by 11 pts. The rest of the half (including a 3-point shot after Dieng’s called timeout). That play is one of the unsung plays from this season’s championship game.
- 4:02 — Gives great help for a block.
- 6:29 — Remember when I told you that Dieng could guard Trey Burke? Well, here is the proof. Dieng ends up isolated on Burke. Burke drives to the basket, Dieng stays with him, and Burke’s shot ends up getting blocked (by Dieng!). This is my favorite play from the video. Just so impressive!
- 7:46 — Does a great job denying Mason Plumlee. Duke seems determined to get the ball to Plumlee down low, but Dieng will not allow it. The Blue Devils even swing the ball to the other side of the court, hoping to get an easier entry pass. Nope.
- 9:00 — Just a great pass from the high post. This is a Dieng specialty.
- 10:22 — Catches the ball in the high post and nails a turn around jumper. Nice!
- 11:42 — Catches in the block (a rarity), but spins right into three defenders.
- 12:23 — This is actually sort of good. Gorgui catches in the block and makes a nice spin move. He just gets too out-of-control and misses.
- 14:39 — Gets pushed aside, rather easily, and allows an lab dunk to Rutgers
- 15:18 — A much smaller player shoves Gorgui out of prime post position.
Side note: One bone of contention I have with the scouting video: itsays that Dieng’s face-up game is bad. What? As I’ve already mentioned, Dieng is great catching the ball in the high post, facing-up, and either finding an open man or hitting a jump shot. His face-up game is only bad when he attempts to dribble to the basket in traffic. But, I ask, what center is good at driving the ball to the hoop in traffic? Not sure where Draft Express was coming from on that take.
Since cutting down the nets with his Louisville teammates, Dieng has been in Los Angeles working out with former NBA big man Will Purdue. We also know that on June 1, Gorgui joined 14 other prospects at a Los Angeles high school for a workout — a workout that featured representatives from all 30 NBA teams in attendance. So, the Hawks have seen him in person. Will they see him as a possible draft pick? I would think so. It would be interesting to see if both Mason Plumlee and Gorgui Dieng are on the board when the Hawks pick at 17, what the team does. Do they pick Plumlee? Dieng? Both? Neither?
Can’t wait to find out!