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.

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell wins throwback Dunk Contest with Vince Carter tribute

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LOS ANGELES — The 2018 Dunk Contest went retro.

And it worked.

The throwbacks started with Cleveland’s Larry Nance Jr. going quick-change to pay tribute to his father, the 1984 winner of the Dunk Contest.

Nance later had the best dunk of the night, but it wasn’t enough in the face of Utah’s Donovan Mitchell‘s strong and consistent night highlight by his throwback dunk — donning a Vince Carter Toronto dinosaur jersey and doing VC’s famed 360 dunk — which got Mitchell the 48 points he needed to hold-off Nance and win the contest. It was over.

“Growing up I was a big dunker,” Mitchell said. “I wasn’t really much of a basketball player. I just dunked and played defense, and I watched a lot of Vince’s videos. I’ve been seeing what he’s been doing all year at his age, which is incredible.

“So I figured, you know, at my size if I was able to get it, it would be a great dunk and a way to finish it, you know. And actually, funny story is I haven’t made that dunk in like half a year. I tried it in practice the past two days and tried it this morning, didn’t make it. Tried it last night, didn’t make it… But to be able to make it was why I was so excited.”

Earlier in the night, Mitchell had done another tribute worn a Darrell Griffith jersey — Utah’s Dr. Dunkenstien, who went to Louisville like Mitchell — for an off-the-side-of-the-backboard jumping over Kevin Hart dunk.

“You know, just knowing your history, I think, is the biggest thing,” Mitchell said of the throwbacks. “Just understanding where this game originated, I guess the OGs of the game, I guess you would call it. But just understanding. Even if it’s just dunking. Whether it’s dunking in the NBA in general, Darrell Griffith, we went to the same school in college. I know Darrell very well. Both got drafted by the Jazz, and he was an incredible player. To be able to pay homage to him meant a lot to me.”

For my money, Nance had the dunk of the night, his first in the Finals, a double off-the-backboard throwdown that you had to see on replay to get (it wasn’t as evident in the building what he had done until it was re-shown on the big screen).

It was a fun contest all night long.

Mitchell (the leader in the Rookie of the Year race) started it off brilliantly — he brought out a second backboard, and did a self-alley-oop off one to the other.

Larry Nance Jr. did his tribute to his father with his first dunk, and on his second one came from behind the backboard, going around the world, and threw it down hard. That got him into the Finals.

Oladipo missed all three of his dunks in the first round, which almost doomed his night. He, however, did a dunk wearing the Black Panther mask for his second dunk, which impressed.

Mitchell said he wanted to beat Dennis Smith Jr. because the Mavericks’ point guard had beaten him in dunk contests for years. Smith had one monster dunk, when he went between the legs and threw it down hard and got the full 50. It just wasn’t enough to get Smith to the Finals.

Nance started off the final round by bringing out his father again to throw an alley-oop to a windmill. Mitchell responded with a self-alley-oop to a windmill that was flat-out wicked. That got Mitchell a 50-46 lead after one round of the Finals.

Then Mitchell went to Vince Carter and “it was over.”

Larry Nance Jr. throws alley-oop to himself, throws alley-oop to himself (video)

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LOS ANGELES — Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. immediately motioned for the replay to be shown of this dunk. It was necessary to properly appreciate it.

Best dunk of the night.

Donovan Mitchell won the dunk contest, though.

Larry Nance Jr. plays tribute to father — rock-the-cradle dunk in Suns uniform

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LOS ANGELES — Back in 1984, high-flying Larry Nance Sr. won the first NBA All-Star Dunk Contest with this set of dunks — most famously a rock-the-cradle move.

Larry Nance Jr. came into the 2018 Dunk Contest and went nostalgic — all the way back to the Suns’ throwback uniform and the same dunk.

That and a good second dunk got him into the Dunk Contest finals. In that round, Nance Sr. threw an alley-oop to his son for the windmill.

Donovan Mitchell throws alley-oop to himself – off second backboard (video)

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LOS ANGELES – Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell set a high standard with the first slam of the 2018 dunk contest.

Very creative. Very well-executed.

Looks like all that preparation paid off.