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The 2013 NBA Draft is a month away and while three teams still remain in the hunt for the Championship, the Celtics are already looking at prospects they could target on June 27th. Boston has only one pick in this year’s Draft, the 16th of the first round, and two clear positions of need: a true point guard to back up Rajon Rondo; and a big man who probably won’t have to contribute immediately providing Kevin Garnett returns for the 2013-14 season.
With that, today on Sports of Boston we begin to look at some of the college and international players that should be on the Celtics’ radar. Our first prospect is Louisville junior, Gorgui Dieng.
Name: Gorgui Dieng
Stats: 6’11″, 230 lbs.
Dieng, a Senegal native, was already a standout basketball player in Africa when he came to the United States at age 19. Dieng played one season at Huntington Prep School in West Virginia before committing to play his college ball at Louisville. Under Rick Pitino, Dieng entered the rotation immediately, and became a starter in his sophomore season, leading the Big East in blocks in 2011-12. This year, he led the national champion Cardinals with 9.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game, and was the conference’s defensive player of the year as well as a member of the All-Big East first team. After his success this season, he decided to forgo his senior year and declare for the Draft.
The short answer is yes. Dieng is known primarily as a defensive standout, and that alone makes him ideal for Boston. But with Pitino as his coach and with former Celtics big man Walter McCarty mentoring him during his freshman season, he became a very solid offensive contributor as well, averaging 9.8 points this year while shooting 53.4% from the floor. In this regard, he has much greater potential to help the team as a rookie than last year’s first-round pick, Fab Melo, whose offensive struggles kept him in the D-League for much of the season. Dieng is a decent passer (2 assists per game) and midrange shooter.
If he’s still available at number 16, the Celtics would love to have Dieng. He’s probably one of the top five big men in the Draft, but he could be taken before the Celtics get the chance to do so. Individual workouts have already started, and as teams prep for draft day and take closer looks at individual players, a guy with Dieng’s upside is likely to rise up draft boards. Center-needy teams like the Trail Blazers or the 76ers could pounce on him if they like what they see during the coming month.