Editor’s note: The New Orleans Pelicans hold the No. 8 pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Leading up to the June 23 draft, we did an in-depth investigation of New Orleans’ potential targets in a series of prospect profiles. This is the sixth installment.
In recent years, the National Basketball League has developed into a reliable talent pool for the NBA.
In 2020, the Charlotte Hornets picked Illawara Hawks’ LaMelo Ball for 3rd overall, while the Denver Nuggets picked 24th overall against New Zealand Breakers’ RJ Hampton.
The following year, the Oklahoma City Thunder picked Josh Giddey of the Adelaire 36ers with the number 6 pick.
The NBL, which has nine teams in Australia and one in New Zealand, has earned a reputation as a league where young talent can develop before making the leap to the NBA. This summer, there’s a good chance that another player with NBL experience will be selected on their résumé in the lottery.
Ousmane Dieng is expected to end up somewhere in the middle to late lottery. The wrestler’s last sham draft saw Dieng busted to the 9th-ranked San Antonio Spurs, while The Athletic’s last sham draft saw a possible match between Dieng and the 12th-ranked Oklahoma City Thunder.
Here is an overview of Dieng’s game.
Point forward potential
Later this month someone will likely play Dieng in the lottery because of his combination of height and ball handling ability.
Dieng is listed at 6-foot-10, has a 7-foot wingspan and looks comfortable as a pick-and-roll orchestrator. Dieng’s height allows him to fire passes over defense. He throws passes from all possible angles and places the ball accurately on the move.
Dieng, a 19-year-old whose father is Sengalese and whose mother is French, averaged 8.9 points (39.8% FG), 3.2 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.4 turnovers in 23 games with the Breakers . His numbers weren’t overwhelming because he was struggling so much in the first half of the season. Dieng averaged 3.7 points on 24.7% shooting in his first 11 games. But in his last 12 games, he has averaged 13.3 points per game on 48.4% shooting.
Dieng shot under 30% from 3-point territory, but he’s not hopeless as an outside shooter. He hit multiple 3s in six of his last 12 games in New Zealand. Dieng showed catch and shoot ability and that he was able to deflect shots from dribbling.
Dieng is not a particularly explosive athlete, but his length allows him to be disruptive.
The team that designs Dieng is betting on his potential. He played for the worst team in the NBL. The Breakers went 5-23. It might be a while before Dieng is ready to be a rotating piece on a winning team.
Dieng could be a set-up man for New Orleans’ leading attackers
The Pelicans are in the unique position of having a lottery selection but not having to find obnoxious engines. They bring back Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum, three players who can make their own recordings.
Dieng’s potential to influence games without needing to score makes him a viable candidate. Dieng could help get the ball to the New Orleans Big Three in the spots they like best. He would also allow the Pelicans to play some massive lineups. Imagine Dieng on the floor with Ingram, Williamson, Herb Jones and Larry Nance Jr., five players between 6-6 and 6-10.
Dieng is one of several players the Pelicans are interested in, league sources told The Times-Picayune. The belief is he’s an option should Dyson Daniels and Bennedict Mathurin not be available when New Orleans selects.
Dieng has impressive skills for such a tall player but he still has a long way to go.