After a promising freshman season where he excelled in a limited role, Gorgui Dieng clearly took his game to the next level as a sophomore, more than doubling his minutes per game while developing into one of Louisville's most important players.
Dieng's physical attributes standing 6-10 with a reported 7-6 wingspan-- remain his strongest selling point, and he's an even more attractive prospect from that perspective than he was the last time we profiled him. Dieng has significantly filled out his frame and added strength since he stepped foot on campus, and reportedly made even more gains this summer based on the way he looked at the Adidas Nations in August.
While Dieng's increased mass will certainly help him better contest physically inside on both ends of the floor, it's also been relieving that he hasn't sacrificed any athleticism or mobility for it, still being all the athlete he was two years ago.
On the offensive end, Dieng's game is still a work in progress, and some of his numbers actually took a step back this season in response to his larger workload. His increased touches and scoring opportunities led to his field-goal percentage dropping significantly from 61.8% to 52.5%, and his issues with touch and at time even his hands have become more apparent around the basket.
Dieng is at his best offensively in the pick-and-roll game, where his great size and excellent mobility often allow him to get open with a head of steam going to the basket. He finishes with authority and is continually improving here, something that will certainly be attractive projecting to the highly pick-and-roll oriented NBA.
Dieng shows more troubles in other situations, specifically finishing on cuts in crowded areas, where he doesn't always deal with increased defensive attention well. He doesn't have much ability to put the ball on the floor and can get into trouble bringing the ball down low before going up for a finish, which can lead him into compromised positions where he isn't capable of putting up consistently high efficiency shots. Still, by virtue of his tools, he remains a good finisher overall, capable of scoring with finesse or power around the basket, but has significantly more potential if he cleans up his rough edges.
Dieng's back-to-the-basket game is another work in progress, as he shows flashes of effective hook shots, turnaround jumpers, and lay-ups, but is still inconsistent with his touch, specifically when he gets farther away from the basket. His mid-range jumper is less impressive, as he made just 11 of 31 attempts on the season according to Synergy Sports Technology, but he did see a noticeable bump in his FT% from 53.8% to 67.6%, which could translate to live action this season.
While Dieng's scoring abilities are coming along slowly in most areas, he actually has a surprisingly good feel for the game for a player with his background at his stage of development, and he consistently finds ways to contribute offensively when he isn't putting the ball in the basket. Constantly moving off the ball, especially when shots go up, Dieng does a good job moving in the offense and getting open while being a huge asset on the offensive glass. Dieng uses his size, mobility, and incredible length very well to track down offensive rebounds, showing a very strong nose for the ball. He also has developed into a subtly good passer in the flow of the offense, serving as a useful cog with the ball, especially from the high post.
The defensive end is where Dieng really makes his impact, however, and where he made significant strides as a sophomore. While Dieng's blocks per pace adjusted 40 minutes fell this past season, so too did his personal fouls, allowing him to play a very impressive 32.8 minutes per game for a defensive-oriented big. His overall defense didn't take a hit either, as he actually improved in most areas and allowed him to anchor the #1 ranked defense in the country according to kenpom.com.
Dieng was already a threatening team defender as a freshman by virtue of his shot-blocking prowess, but he really took his man-to-man defense to the next level as a sophomore, both in the post and on the perimeter. Down low, Dieng's added strength and improved fundamental base allowed him to more easily stay in front of and contest opponents, though he still relies heavily on his outstretched length to contest shots. His improvements on the perimeter were perhaps even more decisive, specifically in the pick-and-roll game where he has an incredibly unique combination of tools. Dieng's combination of mobility, size, length, and change-of-direction ability make him a menace shutting down pick-and-rolls, specifically with his ability to block shots from behind on drives in the lane.
Looking forward, Dieng clearly made some excellent overall strides as a sophomore, but the drop-off in his scoring efficiency around the basket is concerning. His combination of defense, rebounding, and pick-and-roll prowess already make him an intriguing prospect from an NBA perspective, though he can certainly take his game to the next level by continuing to get stronger, developing a reliable mid-range jumper, or becoming a more consistent finisher around the basket, all of which is well within his reach.
Turning 23 this January, Dieng is significantly older than most of the juniors in his class, which may increase the pressure on him to leave school a year early if he has a strong year. It will be interesting to see how much more he's able to improve this season, as it's not out of the question that his learning curve is much different than most Americans his age considering his unique background
, having only arrived in the US in 2009 weighing 187 pounds.