I'm not going to spend time here detailing Gorgui Deing's season, because that's not the point here, and honestly it's not an interesting tale. He was really bad at the start. He's been better-ish since New Years. That's pretty much all there is to be said there.
He has had an interesting season, however.
Against my better predictions, Dieng has found a way to mesh with Karl-Anthony Towns, and in a non-low-usage-defender way. That's led to some decent basketball from the Wolves since he stepped in for Kevin Garnett at the power forward position.
However, it's also made a rather tricky situation that much more complicated. Dieng will be up for a contract extension this off-season. At the same time, his trade value will never be higher than it is right now.
A month ago, this was an easy call: Dieng was not player all that well, and was still not making any real impact on the floor - he was just kind of....there. Now, Dieng's playing some good basketball. It's still debatable whether he's really helping, but he's performing well enough to make keeping him around a serious consideration. So, let's weigh things out.
1. Dieng and Towns have developed genuinely good chemistry. Towns has learned to manage Dieng's odd quirks as a player and play to his strengths. The duo has gotten a good feel for how to space the floor opposite of the other, and display some of the best interior passing in the league.
2. Dieng is far more skilled than your typical backup big man. He can facilitate. He can score in a variety of ways. Inexplicably, he's one of the best free throw shooters in the entire league. So whereas your nominal bench big man is mainly a paint scorer and rebounder, Dieng gives the Wolves a much higher level of utility by comparison when he's on the floor.
3. The Wolves need big men bodies. I mean, this isn't a 'good thing' in terms of overall team health. Pekovic is still hurting even though he's trying to play again. Garnett's knees are old. Payne is still more likely to DDT someone than string together 10 good minutes of basketball. And now Bjelica's on the day-to-day list. So yeah. The Wolves need post players who can play big minutes. Dieng, if nothing else, has been incredibly durable. He could probably play 40 minutes a night the rest of the season and hardly look any worse for the wear.
1. The Towns/Dieng duo probably isn't sustainable in a non-1990s offense. The era of playing two 7-footers is long gone at this point. When looking at things from a long term competitive standpoint - not that the Wolves are close to that right now - I really don't think this pairing works for any coach except Sam Mitchell , Dave Joeger, or Byron Scott. Which...well, the Grizzlies sacrifice any semblance of a modern offense themselves to field the Gasol/Randolph duo. And Mitchell and Scott are....yeah. Enough said.
At best, the Wolves will be forced to switch Towns and Dieng against most teams so that Towns is the power forward. Which will work in a technical sense, but defeats the point of Karl-Anthony Towns. The core of Towns' uniqueness is that he's a legitimate center who can do guard stuff, which means the point of that utility is that he enables a lineup of players who can all do everything - the true incarnation of Don Nelson's "five equal parts" dream. Moving Towns to the 4 completely defeats that. Power forwards who can do power forward stuff and also shoot the three are everywhere in the league now. Towns may do it better than all of them, but he's not unique in those skills at that position. The best use of Towns is as a 5 with a guy like Paul Millsap or Ryan Anderson or *ulp* Kevin Love at the 4.
2. Dieng still wants to be a player the Wolves don't need. And can't really facilitate, to be honest. Yes, he's playing better, but he's still doing so by being the high-usage scorer who tries to be the guy the offense goes through. That basically makes him not-as-good-Karl-Anthony-Towns, and also means that every play he's utilized as such is one less play actually going through KAT. The Wolves need a low usage defender in Dieng's roster spot. It's impossible to reiterate that enough.
3. Dieng still doesn't make much of an actual impact on the floor. As good as he can look - and as good as his box scores look - the reality is Dieng really is just kind of "there" in the end. He's not making a difference in the team's rebounding. He's not making a difference in their defense (or lack thereof). In terms of doing things to help win games, Dieng is more or less a non-factor, and at this point it's hard to see that changing in a big way with this team.
Overall, I think I still lean towards dealing Gorgui Dieng, even with his recent surge. I still don't see how he really fits in with this roster, and I don't think he'll ever be an impact player here. He needs to be with a team like Dallas or Indiana, where his big numbers can better translate into producing wins, and he can indulge in his perplexing desire to be a key piece of the offense without making things awkward for his team.
I also don't want to be the team that tries to figure out Dieng's new contract value. And definitely don't want the Wolves trying to figure it out. History says the Wolves will almost certainly overpay him by a big amount.
The Wolves need a player who's simple and effective in this roster spot, who will do all the "blue collar" things that help enable the white collar players do their best. Miles Plumlee is a name that's come up recently. I think if the Wolves were to replace Dieng with Plumlee, you'd see a pretty noticable step forward in their play.
I don't expect Dieng to be traded. But I think the Wolves should be seriously looking into it. What do you think?