The Wolves might have failed in their bid to find an NBA-ready perimeter scorer in the draft Thursday, but they addressed another need.
When they plucked Louisville big man Gorgui Dieng with the 21st pick in the first round, they got a player who can defend the rim.
The Wolves have some depth along the frontcourt, especially if center Nikola Pekovic is re-signed. But one thing the Wolves didn’t have was a shot-blocker, a player who could make up for defensive mistakes made on the perimeter. And so, with one of the picks obtained in a draft-day deal with Utah, they took Dieng for that reason.
“He knows how to defend the pick and roll, he knows how to defend inside,” said Flip Saunders, Wolves president of basketball operations.
The 6-11 Dieng is long, athletic and quick. He has impressive leaping ability and a knack for blocking shots. He averaged 2.6 blocks per game in his career at Louisville, and he was named the Big East Conference player of the year for the 2012-13 season, which ended with the Cardinals winning the national championship.
But he is also a player who needs some offensive development. The 23-year-old Senegal native is relatively new to the game. He averaged 9.8 points for Louisville this season.
“I think if I go to Minnesota I can learn,” Dieng said. “They have great veterans up there. I can learn from them. Some day I will become a great basketball player.”
But Saunders sounded like he believed Dieng might be more ready than some think.
“What he does offensively [is] he’s a very good passer,” Saunders said. “And how Coach [Rick Adelman] likes to play, you want your bigs not to be one-dimensional.’’