Gorgui Dieng doesn’t need the spotlight, or the negativity that comes with it.
While it would be easy to look at Dieng’s stats and see a player who has not lived up to the promise he showed earlier in his career, that would be far from the whole picture. Dieng is constantly working to make the best of his opportunities—playing behind a player like Karl-Anthony Towns comes with its share of challenges. At the end of the day, Dieng knows that he can control what he can control and leaves the rest up to his coaches.
“When it comes to minutes it’s not on me to talk about that,” he said at media day. “As a basketball player I know what I can do and what I’m capable of. I know I’m a good basketball player. If I wasn’t good enough I wouldn’t be here. I’m ready to challenge anyone every day.”
In short, Dieng takes care of business.
“I always say, this is a job,” Dieng said after practice last week. “It’s on the coach to decide what role he wants you to play and what you can do. Everybody knows what you are capable of—I know I can shoot threes, I know I can shoot the ball, but my job is the type of role that coach is going to give me on this basketball team and I’m going to try and adjust and do the best I can.”
Dieng obviously wouldn’t wish an injury on any of his teammates, but he’s been around for long enough to know that in this league opportunity can knock at a moment’s notice.
“My job is try and get better and get ready, because you never know what’s going to happen. It’s a long season. An injury can happen, a trade can happen, you just got to get ready.”
However, it’s a misconception to say that Dieng can’t also be successful playing in a role behind Towns. On Sunday night, even as Towns put up 33 points in 28 minutes, Dieng still managed to put together an efficient night, scoring 11 points and adding seven rebounds.
Towns and Dieng have complementary but similar skill sets. Both can score from multiple levels (though Dieng’s three-point shooting is still developing), both are excellent rebounders and both are efficient scorers. This means that Dieng and Towns can play together, taking turns in inside/outside roles, and that Dieng can take Towns’ place in sets when the All-NBA big man is on the bench.
Dieng has shown before that he can play with and behind Towns successfully. In 2016-17, the big man played in all 82 games for the Wolves, averaging 10.0 points and 7.9 rebounds on 50.2 percent shooting. He added 1.2 blocks and 1.1 steals. That talent is still there. Despite a down year in 2017-18, Dieng still has the ability to play at a high level, and his confidence in himself is encouraging. All that’s left is to take advantage of the opportunity.