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The grounded Gorgui Dieng

The Grizzlies midseason trade acquisition was a nice boost of the bench, and his expiring contract is an interesting storyline this offseason.

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Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers - Game One Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Gorgui Dieng was an interesting acquisition at the trade deadline for the Memphis Grizzlies. The 30-year-old stretch big from Senegal was acquired from the Timberwolves as a part of the trade that brought Justise Winslow to Memphis. Initial reports at the deadline had James Johnson landing in Memphis, but the Grizzlies flipped him to Minnesota in exchange for Dieng.

Dieng, in 17 regular-season appearances with the Grizzlies, averaged 7.2 points and 4.7 rebounds while throwing in 1.0 blocks in 18.7 minutes per game. In these appearances, he was a solid veteran big off the bench to help rebound, spread out the floor, and play decent defense. While not a flashy and exciting player, his impacts on the court were mostly positive.

At His Best

When Gorgui Dieng is playing his best basketball, he can be a floor-spacing, rim-protecting, and hard-hustling big. One of his best personal games of the season came in a blowout loss against the Los Angeles Clippers in February, where Dieng scored 14 points on 5/10 shooting (2/4 from three) and also recorded 10 rebounds and 4 blocks. He has the ability to step out beyond the arc, though he has struggled from deep so far in his time as a Grizzly. He’s got the ability to face up and hit a mid-range jumper, and is even able to put the ball on the floor and attack a poor closeout.

Where I think Dieng is at his best is at the defensive end. He’s not a uber-athletic shot blocker whose very presence deters drives, but he offers solid rim protection. His high basketball IQ allows him to read plays on the defensive end and get into good help position to deter ball-handlers from getting a shot up in the paint.

At His Worst

I briefly touched on Dieng’s shooting struggles above, but his shooting splits since coming to Memphis have not been attractive. He shot 48.3% from the field and 25.0% from three in his 17 appearances for the Grizzlies. While his field goal percentage jumped from 44.8% this season in Minnesota, his three-point percentage dipped dramatically from 38.3%. Though he has the ability to hit the three and stretch out the defense, sometimes defenses would just allow him to shoot and live with the results. Most times, the defenses won that battle. When operating in the post, many of his attempts were weak and were either blocked or easily contested. He doesn’t do a great job at finishing strong if there is defense there to contest his layup.

On the defensive end, he’s not a very switchable big. He has slow feet and can’t keep up with guards when faced with a switch. When defending the post, he is prone to getting pinned underneath the basket where there is no way for him to contest a shot. Though solid as a help defender and rim protector, a good enough team will be able to play him right off the floor by attacking him in these situations.

What’s Next?

Memphis Grizzlies v Utah Jazz Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Gorgui Dieng is likely to be a Grizzly for next season. He’s on the books for $17.2 million before hitting the unrestricted free agent market in the 2021 offseason. It’s unlikely that the Grizzlies will trade him given that his expiring contract will free up a lot of cap space for the Grizzlies to use in 2021 free agency.

As a 30-year-old big man, I don’t expect his game to evolve much. It will be interesting to watch if his three-point shooting slump was just a bad stretch of games, or if it will continue into next season. Hopefully, after spending more time with the team and adjusting to the schemes, he will adapt and a few more of those shots will fall.

Whatever the future holds for Gorgui Dieng, I can guarantee one thing. He’s going to continue to be exactly what he has been for the Grizzlies so far: solid.

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