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.

PBT Podcast: What’s next for Boston, Philadelphia, Denver? (And some playoff talk)

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Will Kyrie Irving stay in Boston? If not, what is Plan B?

Is Jimmy Butler back in Philadelphia next season? If he is will Tobias Harris be back?

What are the next steps to turn Denver into a contender?

I get into all of those things with the wise Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports (and Celtics Blog, and Real GM), we break down those three teams recently turned out of the playoffs. We also start off talking about teams actually in the playoffs, particularly Toronto’s comeback in the Eastern Conference Finals, and how those teams can take advantage against the Warriors with Kevin Durant out.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Nikola Jokic’s All-NBA first-team selection shows his meteoric rise

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Just four years ago, Nikola Jokic was a second-round pick still playing in the Adriatic League. Just three years ago, he was battling a struggling Jusuf Nurkic to be the Nuggets’ main center.

Yesterday, Jokic made the All-NBA first team.

Jokic has risen incredibly quickly. Before this season, he had never even been an All-Star.

That makes Jokic the first non-rookie in NBA history to make an All-NBA first team without a prior All-Star season (including ABA All-Stars).

The No. 41 pick in the 2014 draft, Jokic is just the fourth second-rounder to make an All-NBA first team since the NBA-ABA merger. The others: DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol and Marc Price.

For most players not immediately deemed to hold first-round talent, it takes a while to build stature in the NBA. Jokic made the All-NBA first team in just his fourth season. That’s way sooner than Gasol (seventh season), Price (seventh season) and Jordan (eighth season):

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The Nuggets didn’t wait for this honor to make Jokic their franchise player. They gave him a near-max contract last summer, and by leading them into the second round of the playoffs, he triggered incentives to reach a max salary.

Denver has built a young supporting cast – mainly Jamal Murray and Gary Harris – to grow with Jokic. The Nuggets also signed veteran Paul Millsap, whose defense complements Jokic’s offensive-minded game.

So much is coming together so quickly for Denver, and Jokic’s honor is just the latest example.

Report: Trail Blazers sign president Neil Olshey to contract extension

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Just after a rumor emerged about the Wizards trying to hire Trail Blazers president Neil Olshey…

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

It’s nice to be wanted. It always adds leverage in contract negotiations.

Olshey has done well in Portland, building a winner around Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum after LaMarcus Aldridge left. But Olshey’s job will get harder now.

Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless each have another season on the expensive contracts Olshey gave them in the wild summer of 2016. That’ll inhibit flexibility this offseason.

Then, Lillard is set to sign a super-max extension that will take effect in 2021. As great as Lillard is, it’ll be difficult building a contender around someone projected to earn $43 million, $46 million, $50 million and $53 million from ages 31-34. There’s so little margin for error, especially if ownership is less willing to pay the luxury tax than the late Paul Allen was.

But Olshey has earned a chance to handle these dilemmas.

Jazz center Rudy Gobert hits super-max criteria for extension projected to be worth $250 million over five years

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Anthony Davis signed a max rookie-scale contract extension in 2015, between his third and fourth seasons. Based on the Collective Bargaining Agreement at the time, the extension called for him to earn a higher salary if he was twice voted an All-Star starter or made two All-NBA teams during his first four seasons. Davis was voted an All-Star starter and made the All-NBA first team in his third season.

Unfortunately for Davis, he missed both honors his fourth year. The All-NBA and All-Star-starter tracks ran independently. Davis couldn’t qualify for a higher max salary by earning one of each.

That cost him $19,683,908 over the four pre-player-option seasons of his extension, which will end next year.

The current CBA’s more significant adjustments to super-max eligibility – changing the years for qualification, using Defensive Player of the Year instead of All-Star starter – obscured a minor tweak. The tracks now run together. A player can qualify with one Defensive Player of the Year and one All-NBA selection. He needn’t achieve two of one category.

So, Jazz center Rudy Gobert – who won won Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 and made All-NBA this year – quietly became eligible to sign a super-max extension in the 2020 offseason. The extension’s highest-allowable value projects to be $250 million over five years. The first four years would follow the structure of the super-max Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers are set to sign.

Newsflash: Gobert isn’t Lillard.

Gobert is elite defensively and underrated offensively. But paying him $50 million per year from ages 30-34 in a league overflowing with good centers? That’s a recipe for disaster for Utah.

But Gobert earned eligibility. That makes it harder for the Jazz to tell him they don’t deem him worthy. That tension is an unintended consequence of the super-max rules.

There is room for negotiation. In this case, Gobert’s designated-veteran-player extension must be for five seasons and have a starting salary between 30% and 35% of the 2021-22 salary cap. But his salary can increase or decrease annually by up to 8% of his first-year salary. The deal can be partially guaranteed.

Still, the lowest possible designated-veteran-player extension for Gobert projects to be $155 million over five years. If fully guaranteed, that’d be expensive for a player of his age. If not fully guaranteed, the Jazz would get savings only by waiving him, and that’d mean dropping the cheaper latter years.

Because he doesn’t have enough experience to qualify, Gobert can’t sign a super-max extension until the 2020 offseason. He met the award criteria, but a player must have seven or eight years of experience. Gobert just finished his sixth year. He’s also under contract for two more seasons – locked into salaries of $24,758,427 next season and $26,275,281 the following year.

So, there’s time to figure this out.

But this is the most uneasy super-max situation so far – unless Gobert just doesn’t insist on the money. Good luck with that.