Before anyone forgets, the Wolves will host the Golden State Warriors tonight as the visiting team tries to stop their losing streak at a resounding one. All the Wolves have to do to ensure victory is mimic the Spurs approach to beating the Warriors, namely by perhaps borrowing the entire San Antonio Spurs team and coaching staff. This would likely greatly enhance the Wolves' chance of victory.
In all seriousness, the Wolves are a young team who have recently been playing at a higher offensive level along with terrible defense. As a whole the team has been wildly inconsistent but has managed to surprise some of the upper echelon teams like Boston and Toronto and steal a couple of wins. Tonight will not be one of those nights as the Warriors are just too good.
On a more interesting note, as has been detailed here by the always excellent Britt Robson, the Wolves are facing an interesting crossroads soon on if they consider Gorgui Dieng an integral part of their future plans. Britt points out that Gorgui has been the ultimate "grease and glue" guy during his career, fitting in wherever he has been needed. Dieng also has the third highest net rating on the team this year, which is especially impressive when it is noted how much time he spent playing in the original bench mob that the Wolves started out the year with that was led by Zach LaVine, Kevin Martin, and Shabazz Muhammad.
Dieng, since joining the starting rotation due to various injuries, has developed extremely good chemistry with Karl-Anthony Towns, which was even pointed out by Zach Lowe in one of his columns. Dieng's pick and roll defense has also been exemplary and he has improved on his previous difficulties in the last few years where he was simply pushed out the way under the basket by stronger players.
However, regardless of the substantial performance the Dieng has put on this season, it is still up in the air whether or not he is an optimal long-term partner with Towns for the front court positions. It's easy to construct a narrative that Dieng would be better served moving back to the bench. This is primarily due the fact that Dieng is basically playing out of position when he is playing the power forward. Dieng is naturally a center, as he stands at 6'11" and 241 pounds, and is also significantly older than the other young Timberwolves as he came into the league when he was 23.
That size on a player who is not on the extreme end of the bell curve for athleticism restricts Dieng to guarding specific type of power forwards, namely the larger bruisers who aren't running around the three point line. We have already seen this problem several times since the All-Star break where player's like Ryan Anderson are able to have a field day against the already porous Timberwolves defense.
This is likely problematic as the league is moving towards more and more small-ball fours, in part as a reflection of the Warriors' success. This leaves very few teams who are running out line-ups that where Dieng and Towns match-up well against the opposing front courts. However, it is really the only option that the Wolves have at the moment due to injuries or general incompetence among other options.
This is something the Timberwolves' front office is likely very aware of as the offseason approaches and the scouting department is taking a closer look at who may available around the Timberwolves' drafting slot on draft day.
But simply replacing Dieng with a new rookie would continue the "no respect" mantra of Gorgui's career as he has largely fallen in the background of the brighter stars of Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Zach LaVine. This season has proved that it would be fallacious to ignore the contributions that Dieng brings to the table, especially with the starting line-up. The Wolves will be needing someone who can play solid defense and only needs a low usage rate on offense, both of which Dieng provides. If the Wolves were able to find themselves this "small-ball 4" in the draft or in free agency it might actually be more prudent to go with a platoon front court where Dieng and the new acquisition would split time playing with Towns based upon opposing match-ups. The Wolves would also then be able to more easily punish teams who are unable to successfully run out small-ball line-ups, as the bigs tandem of Dieng and Towns may be too much for teams that try and fail to mimic the Warrior's success.
This would mean that the Wolves should be more willing to grant Dieng a larger extension when his rookie contract is up, which is something that I think will be worthwhile as it is likely that he will be paid around the 10-12 million range. This contract, with the new TV money of course, will be properly valued and in the event that the Wolves are able to find a more traditional power forward (maybe if Bender is drafted and comes over in a couple years) and Dieng becomes unnecessary, the Wolves would easily be able to move Dieng on that contract. However if the Wolves are a competitive playoff team at the time, then he will also likely be a great bench piece to hold the line while the starters are resting.
To sum it up briefly, the Gorgui question is actually an easy one. Dieng is a valuable piece that can fill several roles for the Timberwolves moving forward and likely will be more valuable to the team than what his trade value commands. There is also little risk in retaining Gorgui as his contract should remain around a reasonable rate. All the Wolves need to do is pay the man and let him grease the wheels.
Notes from Around the League
Anthony Davis has been shut down for the season. This is extremely significant for a couple of reasons. First of all, the Pelicans now have a chance to bypass the Wolves in the tankathon as the Wolves are currently four games "ahead". More importantly, Anthony Davis stands to lose around 24 million dollars if he does not make one of the three All-NBA teams and qualify for the "Derrick Rose rule" with his rookie extension. Him sitting out for the rest of the season will make it much more likely he is not voted onto one of these teams.
Dwight Howard, in true Dwight fashion, was caught using Stickum during an NBA game. Dwight was later confused on why it was newsworthy, as he said "I don't know why people are making a big deal out of it. I do it every game. It's not a big deal. I ain't tripping." While technically illegal, it seems that Stickum is more frowned upon in the NBA than actually warranting a suspension, as detailed by Chris Mannix of the Vertical here. This video of Dwight putting the Stickum on the ball is great as Paul Millsap is immediately confused at why the ball is so sticky.
Been really busy this week with work so nothing new to report on the pop culture front. However for those who have caught up on the Americans, the show has returned and it's as amazing as always.