Whenever a young player suddenly emerges when given playing time, we have to wonder: should he have been given more playing time all along, or did the seasoning he received while waiting his turn prepare him for his shining moment?
With Wolves center Gorgui Dieng, we are guessing it's the latter. He looked useful but raw in limited action early in this season. Starting these last three games for injured Nikola Pekovic, he has looked like much more than that. It comes with some caveats -- his first career double-double in his first start against Sacramento came with DeMarcus Cousins out, while his 22-point, 21-rebound effort last night came against a Dwight Howard-less Houston squad.
That said, he is a reason to watch the final 15 games of an improved but ultimately disappointing Wolves season. He will struggle in some games, we would imagine. But if he can prove over this small but longer stretch to be NBA-ready, it presents some interesting options going into an interesting offseason.
The Wolves first have to decide what is to be done about Kevin Love's future. If they are convinced he is leaving after next year, they need to trade him. If they think they can sway him by making the playoffs and showing promise for the future, they need to get better. The current roster is good enough for 40-45 wins, but we're not sure it's much more than that.
What they absolutely need -- still! -- is a wing who can consistently score and defend. Corey Brewer is best suited, ultimately, to provide energy off the bench.
What they might have an abundance of, if Dieng continues his trajectory, are big men. Dieng is under team control for several years. Ronny Turiaf signed a two-year contract, so he has another year. And Pekovic signed a long-term deal last offseason.
If they could find a team that thought Pek was the answer to its problems at center, and the Wolves could find a way to parlay that into the wing they so badly need, we would be on board 100 percent. Again, this is contingent on what we see from Dieng down the stretch and what we think we might continue to see going forward.
But we're intrigued by both Dieng and the flexibility he might give Minnesota.