Since the draft is coming up in the next month, I believe it is time to start focusing on potential players for the 76ers. We won’t know what their exact spot in the draft is until May 21st when the lottery takes place, however, we do know it is in the top-14 and most likely will be the 11th pick. With Sam Hinkie just being hired and no head coach, it is still uncertain what direction the 76ers want to head in. For now, I am going to assume that they will not re-sign Andrew Bynum and will want to take a big man at pick #11. I think the 76ers need to focus on a player that plays a more defensive style of basketball.
With that being said, I want to look at Gorgui Dieng. This guy sticks out to me as the best defensive center in the draft (other than Nerlens Noel, if he can come back 100% healthy). I got to watch a lot of him this year because I watch a lot of Big East basketball, so everything is coming from a pretty large sample size.
Defensive Skill Set:
Let me reiterate that if the Sixers were to draft Gorgui, it would be for his defensive intangibles. He measures in at 6’11”, 245 pounds with a 7’6” wingspan. Those are terrific numbers for him. The weight surprised me a bit; I thought he weighed less. Nonetheless, what stands out to me is how quick he is. He moves so smoothly for a man his size. When you watch him play defense, you can’t help but notice how he hardly gets beat off the dribble or in the post. On top of his footwork, you can see he has a knack for where the ball is going to be. He gets countless steals and knockaways from having his hands ready and his good anticipation skills.
Gorgui is also very quick off the floor, and what I mean by that is he is able to stay on the floor and not pick up silly fouls by jumping too early. His length and quickness off the floor allows him to get blocks without fouling. He averaged 2.5 blocks for the season this past year as a junior.
Dieng also has the ability to step out from the basket to guard his opponent. What this allows him to do is play tight on jump shooting big men who play 15 feet or more from the basket. Something to point out is that Dieng is terrific when it comes to fronting the post-man and then re-positioning for the block-out. Even though you won’t see that happen too often in the NBA, it shows once again that he has the athleticism to play in front of someone and not allow them to get the ball. He has the footwork to become a fantastic pick and roll defender and also hedges well, which is something every coach will love. The pick and roll is being used more and more in the NBA, so he won’t be a liability on defense if put into those situations.
Another key point for Dieng is that if he is switched on to another player, being a guard or wingman, he is very good at staying in front of them. But what Gorgui did best was lure them to drive to the hoop and then get the block.
Here are just a couple of times from the National Championship game when he was switched to guarding Trey Burke. This is Gogui guarding the pick and roll and having to guard Trey to the basket. Here, Gougui has to come out on Spike Albrecht. Albrecht sees he has Gogui beat, tries to go by him but Gorgui’s length allows him to get the block even though Albrecht went by him. And lastly, probably my favorite clip I’ve seen of Dieng, locking down Burke and forcing him to take a bad shot. Just look how good of a defensive stance Dieng is in on the nation’s best PG.
He did this plenty of times over this past season, and it was something that was very impressive to watch. Some other quick notes on Gorgui that stood out is his ability to find his man for block-outs instead of just watching the ball. He keeps the ball high on rebounds so guards can’t smack it away from him, and lastly, he is terrific on off-ball action. He can read a play before it is happening and anticipate what is going to happen.
Offensive Skill Set:
As far as offensive skills, he is limited to a point. He shot over 50% from the field and 65% from the free throw line this year while averaging almost 10 points. Like I stated above, he is a defensive presence. But he did impress with his 15-footer he was shooting. He gets the ball high when he shoots, so it isn’t contested easily. Dieng is very raw in the post; he would need to work on his post skills tremendously if he was to ever become a reliable offensive presence. He gets deep post position, so its not like he is being pushed around on the block, and he also showed some flashes of decent footwork, but for the most part just seemed awkward down there.
Some positives are he is patient after grabbing offensive boards; he doesn’t get rushed into making a forced pass or shot attempt. When he does go to make a shot, he gathers himself with a strong, quick dribble.
He is an excellent screener, didn’t see him get called for many moving screens this past year, and knows which way to open up after he sets his screens. Those are two very important skills to have in the NBA.
I think what I like most about Gorgui Dieng is his passing skills; he seems to see the floor very well for a big man. Just from watching him in the tournament, there were probably 10 or more passes when you said to yourself “how did he get that through there?” Dieng puts passes right where they need to be, when they need to be there.
A couple of final notes about Gorgui Dieng include his slender frame, but he is physical enough to where it won’t be a liability. He has a never-ending motor and knows exactly what is expected of him, he has championship pedigree and comes from a program with one of the best coaches in all of basketball. Gorgui Dieng would be a terrific draft pick for the Philadelphia 76ers; he would be able to step in on day one and make an impact on the defensive side of the ball. I know Hinkie loves his efficient players, and Dieng seems to fit that role to me. We won’t know what the Sixers will want to do until they get a new head coach, but he seems like a safe pick that will pan out no matter who is the coach.