The Minnesota Timberwolves are in a great position heading into this draft. They already return a lot of the roster that made the 7-seed and can take some risk on a prospect they have a lot of interest in. Lucky for them, there are intriguing prospects at multiple positions. For example, Ousmane Dieng checks many boxes for them and would be worth trading up from the 19th pick if he falls.
Dieng is a 6’10” versatile forward with ball skills who showed out with the NBL’s New Zealand Breakers. He averaged 8.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game and shooting splits of 39.8/27.1/66.7 over 23 games before leaving to prepare for the draft.
While none of his stats jump off the page, Ousmane was doing this all as an 18-year-old. He also drastically improved in the 2nd half of the season. In the last 12 games of the season, he averaged 13.3 points per game on 44.3/35.0/69.5 splits as he earned more minutes.
However, Dieng is a capable defender, which is harder to quantify. He uses his 6’10” size to his advantage as a defender. While he’s not the quickest athlete, Dieng used his length to react, chase down attackers, and contest their shots.
His assist numbers are another counting stat that makes it difficult to gauge as they are much lower than solid his playmaking skill is. Dieng showed polished guard/ball-handling traits for his size. While he isn’t going to be the one bringing the ball up the court and setting others up every possession, he can find others in the pick-and-roll and make the extra pass in the half-court.
Dieng is an incredibly fluid player. He reminds me a lot of Jaden McDaniels with how smooth their movement is. They can take defenders off the dribble, using an effective crossover with their length to get to the rim. They can also guard multiple positions and use their frame to affect the play, even when opponents blow by them.
Neither are going to force things on offense. If the play comes their way, they can be aggressive and make a move that leads to a bucket from a multitude of spots on the floor. His jump shot is also very solid mechanically for someone of his size and age, making it look that.
But like McDaniels, Dieng needs to train into an NBA body. That isn’t a huge knock; it’s something that many players need to do when they enter the league. Dieng can guard smaller players due to his frame, but he can become even more versatile as a defender if he bulks up.
Dieng is much more suited for an off-ball role right now. He hasn’t polished his defensive abilities enough to guard a No. 1 or 2 option right now. It is difficult for many players to come in and have that prominent of an impact defensively.
While Ousmane is still very much a project pick, his huge future impact as a plus-role player with more potential to grow should be on Minnesota’s radar. His stock is still in limbo, as many draft experts see him possibly being taken as high as top-10, while others with him later in the first round.
That gives the Wolves open options to decide whether a trade-up is viable. Ousmane’s versatility as a combo guard/forward allows them to let him develop over time into a future contributor while not hurting the current roster. His size, length, and ability to do a lot off the ball are exactly what Minnesota is looking for to complement the existing core.