19 Jun 2013 01:27 PM EST
-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Gorgui Dieng’s length on defense should make him a first-round pick. (Image Source: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Once projected as a borderline NBA Draft Lottery pick by some talent evaluators the belief now is that former Louisville center Gorgui Dieng could be available when the Knicks pick in the first round with the 24th overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft.
Most consider frontline depth a major need for the Knicks heading into next week’s draft. What Dieng brings to the table is the type of rebounding and interior defense the Knicks lacked, as the Indiana Pacers bounced them from the NBA playoffs in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
A native of the Senegal, Dieng averaged 9.1 rebounds, 3.2 blocks and 1.2 steals per game as a sophomore and 9.4 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 1.1 steals as a junior when he anchored Louisville’s defense all the way to an NCAA Championship. He is right there with the top rim protectors and interior defenders in this draft.
At 6’11”, Dieng is long with a 7’4” wingspan. He plays with good energy, is a team guy and doesn’t need the ball to make an impact on the game, not all that dissimilar to New York’s starting center Tyson Chandler from several respects.
One difference is that Dieng seems to operate more comfortable in the high post on offense, facing the rim. He’s improved his ball skills and at times he will surprise with his passing ability, as Dieng handed out six assists in the National Championship Game versus Michigan and eight assists in the Big East Championship Game against the Syracuse Orange.
"I just prefer to face up because that's what I've been taught. But I can go back to the basket too," Dieng said following his workout on Tuesday [per ESPNNewYork.com]. "But at this level things are very different and…you need to go straight to the bottom and start learning again."
Listen to most scouts and Dieng has a lot to learn offensively, where his game is very limited and one of the reasons he may slide into the latter portion of the first round. While his jumper is improving the Big East product is still raw.
Two other reasons Dieng’s stock may be on the decline are his age and injuries. At 23-years old he is among the oldest players in the upcoming draft and the perception is that he may have already peaked as a prospect with little remaining upside. Ankle and knee injuries are a concern, as a bad ankle has limited Dieng throughout the draft process.
Other big men the Knicks have worked out include Jeff Withey out of Kansas, who has a similar profile to Dieng, and Bucknell product Mike Muscala.
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Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards.