Atlanta Hawks: Gorgui Dieng adds deep range and shot blocking to bench

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports /

The Atlanta Hawks didn’t dawdle while awaiting a decision on restricted free agent John Collins or with the impending max contract extension for Trae Young. General Manager Travis Schlenk was clear what type of player he was looking for to strengthen the depth behind Clint Capela and we expanded the criteria after it was announced Onyeka Okongwu would be out until January.

Gorgui Dieng averaged 6.8 points and 3.7 rebounds while splitting last season between the Grizzlies and Spurs.

He brings a veteran presence, shot-blocking, and can knock down the occasional three.

The Atlanta Hawks got their stretch-big with the addition of veteran Gorgui Dieng

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Those latter two skills were mentioned specifically by Schlenk. But the added passing ability — Dieng averaged 1.3 assists this past season and 1.4 assists for his career — brings an added element not found in the incumbent bigs.

With Nathan Knight not being tendered a qualifying offer, Capela was the only healthy center on the roster.

And with Okongwu already out, they needed someone who could contribute with his physicality while also adding those other traits that Dieng brings on his one-year $4 million deal.

He will still be useful when Okongwu eventually returns.

The 6-foot-10 Dieng was the 21st-overall pick by the Timberwolves back in 2013.

Now a 10-year vet, he has molded his game into that of a modern big since coming out of Louisville, with his three-point attempts rising just about every season.

He’s efficient from deep too, knocking down triples at a 35.7 percent clip in his career.

Dieng is also a capable free-throw shooter, knocking down 79.3 percent of his attempts at the charity stripe in his career, including 86.6 percent last season. As a backup, all of these stats are on limited attempts but it’s good to know that he’s reliable when called upon.

The move comes as it seems there will be no resolution on the Collins front on a very active opening night of free agency in the NBA. Young’s deal is only being held up by league rules.

It’s doubtful this move is any indication of where the Hawks and Collins stand, but it bears mentioning that Dieng has experience at and the necessary skillset to play power forward. It wouldn’t be anywhere close to the level of Collins but he might hold up better there than some of their other in-house alternatives.

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We’ll have to keep our eyes and ears open as the news keeps flying in. But hopefully, this is just another solid move in a really good offseason.