PBT Draft preview: Dieng can help your defense now. The offense….

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PBT continues profiling likely first-round draft picks in the upcoming NBA Draft. Today we look at a key member of the NCAA title team in Louisville.

Rim protection matters. It mattered in college at Louisville and it matters in the NBA.

And that is what Gorgui Dieng brings to the NBA — and can bring it right away. He is 23, a college junior, a more mature player who can give you something right now.

Sometimes as we get ready for a draft we pick apart what a player cannot do well, and there are plenty of things Dieng cannot do well — he is not good on much offensively (except pass). And because he is older at 23, what you see is much closer to what you get with him, he’s not a guy you throw the word “upside” at.

But he can defend in the paint, he measured with great length. He will end up getting used more in a Joel Anthony type way, but that can have real value in the NBA. DraftExpress has him going No. 17 in the coming draft (pre-lottery).

STRENGTHS

First off, he is NBA center sized — he measured 6’10.75” tall in shoes with a 7’3.5” wingspan and a standing reach of 9’3.5” standing reach at the NBA Draft Combine. Teams care about standing reach for bigs (how tall you are with your hands straight over your head) because that impacts shots taken around the rim. Dieng was second biggest at the combine (behind Rudy Gobert of France, who turned a lot of heads there.) Dieng did not do other drills at the combine due to a sprained ankle.

He can defend — he blocked a lot of shots at Louisville and protected the rim like you’d expect. But he also is quick and out on the perimeter can show out on a pick-and-roll and cut off a guard and recover — something key in the NBA game. He really works hard on the defensive end.

What’s more is he is mobile as a defender and rebounder — he can rebound outside his position. Meaning he doesn’t just box out and occupy a little space, if the ball comes off the rim somewhere else he can get to it. Rebounding is a stat that correlates well to the NBA (guys who can rebound in college can usually do it in the NBA) and Dieng averaged better than 9 rebounds a game his last two seasons at Louisville. That mobility makes him a good defender coming from the weak side as well (plus he can get out in transition).

On offense, he’s a pretty good passer and he has soft hands — he can catch and make plays right around the rim.

WEAKNESSES:

Pretty much everything on the offensive end. He shot 28 percent when he got the ball in the post last season, which is frighteningly poor. He can score right around the rim on open shots but at the NBA level he cannot create and is not of much use on that end. He is a nice passer, we should note, but teams will dare him to shoot.

He is just raw and at age 23 there is not going to be a ton of improvement that way. But if he can – if he can say find an 18-foot baseline spot or the elbow where he can become a threat to hit a jumper, his value as a guy who can keep offenses honest. He is never going to be a great scoring threat, he just needs to occupy a defender.

WHERE DOES HE GET DRAFTED?

Usually you say big men move up the draft board late, and in the case of young bigs like Rudy Gobert that will be the case. But Dieng is 23, his game is not going to change much from now going forward, he’s never going to give you much on offense. So don’t expect him to climb. DraftExpress has him at No. 17 and I would say somewhere just after the lottery makes sense. But unlike some of the guys taken then he can really help a team in certain ways next year.

Rumor: Grizzlies had to choose between Marc Gasol and David Fizdale

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David Fizdale has been linked to most of the NBA’s head-coaching vacancies.

He developed a legion of backers as lead a Heat assistant, and he did good things guiding the Grizzlies before they unexpectedly fired him. He deserves consideration.

But he also must explain his fractured relationship with Memphis star Marc Gasol. They weren’t speaking for a while.

And maybe the problem was even worse than that.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

According to a source close to Fizdale briefed on the Grizzlies’ decision, it was ownership having to make a choice — trade their All-Star center Marc Gasol, who has fallen in love with its small-market city, or fire the coach. Their relationship had gotten that bad.

If Grizzlies ownership felt it had to choose between Gasol and Fizdale, it’s not clear why.

Fizdale benched Gasol down the stretch during the coach’s last game, and Gasol publicly expressed his frustration.

But Gasol denied issuing a me-or-Fizdale ultimatum. Fizdale said focus on his relationship with Gasol was “overblown,” adding he cared far more about whether he could win with a player than whether they got along personally.

Memphis obviously sided with Gasol – probably too strongly.

LeBron James bought Cavs teammates matching designer suits to wear to game tonight

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I’m still trying to decide if this is cool or a little too Stepford.

The Cavaliers rolled into the Bakers’ Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis tonight wearing matching designer suits, all paid for by LeBron James and custom fitted to each player.

If a college team rolled into a game in four-digit designer suits, the NCAA would have questions. And not about the vests.

The Cavaliers are LeBron’s team, and if he wants to buy his teammates suits and tell them to wear them it’s going to happen. Is it a bonding thing that helps bring them together? Sure. Is it in place to make sure LeBron remembers which ones are his new teammates? Probably not.

Do the suits help on the court? No. And the Cavaliers better bring it in Game 3 because if they go down 2-1 in this series — something that is a realistic possibility — the whispers of doubt are going to get a lot louder.

Report: Knicks to discuss coaching vacancy with Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer

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Mike Budenholzer is restless in Atlanta, seeing a rebuild coming and looking at other jobs (something Hawks management is fine with). He went down the road a ways with the Suns before pulling out of that process, but he’s still looking around.

The Knicks are casting a wide net in their search, talking to virtually everyone looking for coaching jobs.

So, this seemed inevitable, right? Budenholzer and the Knicks are going to talk, according to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

This will be very preliminary. The Knicks have already had some level of conversation with Mark Jackson, David Fizdale, Jerry Stackhouse, David Blatt, Mike Woodson, and TNT analyst Kenny Smith (Jackson and Fizdale are the rumored early leaders). Budenholzer has established a style and culture in Atlanta, giving the franchise a path forward. New York could certainly use that.

However, the Knicks job comes with real challenges, too. That starts with James Dolan as owner and the erratic, at times paranoid culture he has created there. Also, expectations in New York are always high, but the team will be without Kristaps Porzigis for at least half (maybe all) of the upcoming season as he recovers from an ACL injury, and that puts a ceiling on the team in the short term. Is all that worth leaving Atlanta for?

 

Stephen Curry to begin “modified” practices with Warriors

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Golden State has flipped the switch in the first round, going up 3-0 on overmatched San Antonio. The Warriors have been outscoring the Spurs by 20.2 points per 100 possessions in the series, allowing less than a point per possession on defense and scoring when and where they want. Kevin Durant is averaging 27.3 points per game, Klay Thompson is shooting 63.3 percent from three and scoring 25.7 points per game, and the Warriors are clicking.

But they are not yet whole — they need Stephen Curry back. Not for this round, but before the Western Conference Finals for sure.

Curry was re-evaluated Friday and will begin practicing with the team in a limited — or “modified” to use the team’s term — way.

The target has always been a return somewhere during the second round, and that still seems to be on track. That is also a little faster than traditional for a Grade 2 MCL sprain, which can take up to two months to heal (not the 4-6 weeks of the Warriors timeline), but the Warriors are being cautious here for now.

Eventually, the Warriors will need him back — their offense is built around Curry and his ball movement and movement off the ball. Curry’s gravity to draw defenders, even when he doesn’t have the ball, opens up the floor for others. Put simply, if he’s 28 feet from the bucket on the weak side defenders still have to watch and be near him, and help defenders need to be aware, which pulls the defense to wherever he is. Without Curry and the Warriors take more midrange jumpers, it’s just in the first round series against the Spurs they are hitting them.