EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Gorgui Dieng will make his way on stage and shake NBA Commissioner David Stern's hand on Thursday evening at Barclays Center after he is selected somewhere in the first round of the NBA Draft.
Whether or not the Louisville junior and reigning Big East Defensive Player of the Year will be chosen inside the first 30 picks is not up for debate at this point. The question marks surrounding the 6-foot-11, 230-pound native of Senegal center on his still-developing offensive game and his ability to crack an NBA rotation immediately.
"My offensive game has improved a lot and I know I have a long way to go, but there is always room for improvement," Dieng said after finishing up his final pre-draft workout with the Nets on Wednesday morning at PNY Center. "I’m just getting excited."
"I think he’s got a chance (to crack a rotation)" Nets Director of Player Personnel Gregg Polinsky said. "You don’t want to speak for any other team and obviously, that would be up to Coach Kidd if, in fact, he were to land here. He definitely has a maturity about him and a presence and I think we saw that over the course of his career there and particularly this year as they made their run to the title."
Dieng has always been a defensive specialist, specifically in his final season at Louisville, which ended with the Cardinals marching to the national championship. His 9.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocks her game last season underlie an offensive game that has made great strides.
A mid-range jump shot out to roughly 15 feet has come along, as has his ability to regularly execute the pick-and-roll. Besides the offense, much of the intrigue around Dieng stems not only from the fact that he has played organized basketball for only six years, but that he is on the older side for a draft prospect at 23 years, five months and nine days.
"He’s found a little bit of a niche offensively, making the jump shot and I think his low post game will continue to develop because he seems like a kid who is seriously committed and has some goals of where he wants to be," Polinsky said.
When it comes to where Dieng will be chosen on Thursday, opinions and mock drafts vary wildly. Most reputable mock drafts have him going between 20-26, while some believe he may go as high as No. 12. DraftExpress currently has Dieng slotted at No. 25 to the Los Angeles Clippers. On Tuesday evening, DraftExpress had him at No. 22 to the Nets.
Dieng getting drafted by the Nets at No. 22 would make sense given their need for another big man, preferably a defensive-minded one that could step into the rotation immediately. Should the Nets choose Dieng, he would presumably step right in as a backup center to Brook Lopez.
"I don’t know where I’m going right now, but if I end up here, I will be very excited and you never know in this draft," Dieng said. "I don’t care honestly where I get drafted. I just want to be a first-round pick and go to a team where I will play."
Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA