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Ryan Saunders Explains Gorgui Dieng’s Absence

The Timberwolves coach explained the 5-game absence of forward Gorgui Dieng before Thursday’s game.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

You may wonder where Gorgui Dieng has gone. Dieng has played just 1:50 over the last five games. Thursday’s injury report did not have Dieng listed which prompted reporters to ask coach Ryan Saunders before that evening’s game.

Saunders isn’t wrong. Players like Taj Gibson, Anthony Tolliver, and Luol Deng have risen to the occasion. The Timberwolves were winners of 4 out of 5 prior to Wednesday’s loss in Atlanta, so it’s hard to fault Saunders for running with the lineups that got the team there.

To me, it’s more interesting to see what this means for Dieng’s future. Dieng will be owed $33 million over the next two seasons and has been involved in trade rumors going back to the 2018 trade deadline. His contract may have more value after the 2020 season as an expiring contract.

Until then, what do the Wolves do? He’s already seen his minutes decline in each of the last three seasons and has received the same amount of playing time he did as a rookie. The difference, of course, is that Dieng was on a rookie deal then. Now, he’s an expensive healthy scratch.

Playing on the second night of a back-to-back in Indiana on Thursday and Deng dealing with heel soreness could make this more interesting. Dieng wasn’t listed as inactive on the injury report and I’ll be curious to see who takes Deng’s minutes.