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Knee-jerk Notes #9: Gorgui Dieng

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Just a quick post I threw together on the Wolves starting center. It ain't nuthin' but a G thang, baby.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to another edition of Knee-jerk Notes. The goal of these posts is to display various information that will help us, as a community, learn more about the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Today's subject: Gorgui Dieng.

This season Nikola Pekovic only played nine games before being sidelined with an injury. His recurring knee issues and subsequent absences render Gorgui Dieng invaluable to the Timberwolves.

Flip Saunders offensive philosophy insists possessions start by feeding the ball into the painted area. Once the ball is fed inside, post players can pass to cutters moving toward the basket or open shooters on the perimeter. Essentially, Saunders wants the Wolves to work from the inside-out.

Dieng and Pekovic are, obviously, very different players. Pekovic plays with power. His 295 pound frame is difficult to move. Dieng, on the other hand, is not dependent on strength, but skill -- he can effectively pass and shoot from areas that are a greater distance from the rim. Unlike Pekovic, Dieng isn't capable of bullying defenders under the hoop using brute strength.

Offensively

Saunders admitted he's simplified things because of the injuries to Pekovic, Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin. There simply aren't many (healthy) experienced playmakers on the roster who can create scoring opportunities for teammates.

Thus, Dieng is not only being used as a scorer, but a facilitator as well.

The Wolves often look to start possessions with entry passes to Dieng near the elbow, where he averages 5.3 touches per game --- touches that originate within the five foot radius nearing the edge of the lane and free throw line, inside the 3-point line are defined as elbow touches.

From there, Dieng can go through his progressions and make passes to cutting teammates or outside shooters.

An example.
Wolves: Red
Orlando Magic: Blue
Gorgui Dieng: #5

Dieng starts on the left-wing before flashing to the free throw line. Once in possession, after determining Shabazz Muhammad was not open in the low block, he can either shoot a midrange jump shot, or, as was done here, look for someone who is cutting to the basket. In this instance, Corey Brewer is open on a backdoor cut; Dieng makes a nice pass and Brewer converts a layup.

Gorgui Assist

Here's the play again, only you're looking at humans.

GorguiDiengAssist2

Scoring

Let's start with a shot chart -- big ups to the peeps over at StatMuse for the invitation to test their product.

DiengShotChart

Aside from dunks and layups, Dieng often scores using jumpers and hook shots, because a nimble frame doesn't allow him to force his way closer to the basket. Perhaps this explains his shooting struggles around the rim.

Away from the basket, though -- according to the way NBA Stats classifies shot types -- Dieng is 8-of-46 on Jump Shots (YIKES), 7-of-10 on Jump Bank Shots, 2-of-5 on Turnaround Jump Shots and 2-of-5 on Fadeaway Jump Shots.

Dieng ranks outside of the top-15 among qualifying centers* in points per game and field goal percentage (9.2ppg, 51.2 FG%). Additionally, his True Shooting Percentage** (.586) is tied for 12th.


MPG PPG ORPG APG FG% TS%
November (13 games) 26.2 8.5 3.4 1.9 48.8% 56%
December (12 games) 31.6 10.7 5.3 2.3 52.4%

60.1%

*Players on pace to make at least 300 field goals

**TS%: True Shooting Percentage - what a player's shooting percentage would be if we accounted for free throws and 3-pointers. True Shooting Percentage = Total points / [(FGA + (0.44 x FTA)]

Allinall, he's improved in every facet listed on the above graphic.

Dieng averaged 10.7ppg (52.4 FG%) through 12 games in December, including Tuesday's 20 point performance against the Cleveland Cavaliers. His 60.1 TS% would rank top-10 among qualifying centers if it were a season average. He seems to be improving as the season progresses, but it is uncertain whether or not this production is sustainable.

We'll have to wait and see.