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What Gorgui Dieng can bring to the Spurs

The Spurs added a new center to bolster their depth, but how big of a positive impact can their new big make?

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs have added Gorgui Dieng to their roster to bolster their center depth. What role do you think he’ll have and how much do you expect him to help?

Marilyn Dubinski: I think he will slide right in to the backup center position behind Jakob Poeltl, moving Drew Eubanks to the third unit. His minutes will likely depend on how Poeltl is dealing with foul trouble from game to game, but his presence will also give Pop more comfort in playing Poeltl fewer minutes as they navigate this exhausting schedule, as well as relieve Rudy Gay of center duties. While not a huge part of his game, his three-point shooting will help spread the floor more and open up the offense, plus he’s a solid defender. Overall I believe he’s a good addition to a Spurs team that tends to struggle against opponents with elite bigs and will provide enough on both ends to be a net positive to the club.

Mark Barrington: This is the best possible pickup for the Spurs this season. He’s a perfect fit for what the Spurs need, a talented big who can play defense and stretch the floor. He could be the first big off the bench, or he could even replace Poeltl in certain matchups where the team needs spacing. I don’t think it affects Poeltl’s total minutes either way, but in the fourth quarter where teams are tempted to go with a hack-a-Poeltl strategy before the 2 minute mark, I could see Dieng holding down the paint for the Spurs. The main loser in this situation is Drew Eubanks, who has been playing incredibly hard lately, but isn’t the kind of contributor on offense that Dieng will be. Also, Trey Lyles is likely to only see time if Dieng or Poeltl is out, so he’s probably gone at the end of this season. But it’s not settled whether Gorgui will be a long term addition, or if this is just a partial season rental. I would think that the Spurs will try to sign the Senegalese Sniper for a longer term, but if he plays well this season, I would expect offers from other teams. The Silver and Black will need to add some more offensive creators next year in the draft, but I think that Dieng could be a solid long term addition if they can sign him.

Bruno Passos: The Spurs need willing and threatening shooters at all positions to make up for their spacing issues, so Dieng projects to come off the bench and lift those lineups a bit. He’s not going to give Jakob Poeltl any real competition for the starting center job but he gives the Spurs a different look to show teams that sag off Poeltl when he’s behind the arc or ignore him when he packs the paint. There’s obviously a reason why the playoff hopeful Grizzlies didn’t have a role for him, but if Dieng can play decent drop scheme defense and remain anywhere near the kind of three-point shooter he’s been this season (over 47% but on a limited number of attempts) then he’ll be an upgrade over Drew Eubanks. Sorry, Drew.

Jesus Gomez: I expect him to be the backup center as soon as he arrives, which is probably a good thing. Drew Eubanks tries hard and his effort allows him to make some plays, but he’s still a fringe NBA player while Dieng is more established.

What terrifies me is the idea of Dieng getting more than 15 minutes a game, or so. I can understand the excitement over the upgrade at the position, but I feel like Dieng’s potential impact is overstated. He’s a solid rebounder but he’s not really a great rim protector or defender in space and he’s not the most physical of players. He always plays hard but can be inconsistent when it comes to production, so I don’t love the idea of the Spurs relying on him for meaningful minutes. On offense, he’s essentially transitioned to being a perimeter threat first and foremost (almost twice as many of his shots have come from beyond the arc as opposed to the rim), which is great since he’s shooting well over 45 percent on those outside looks. But that number seems like an aberration, considering how efficient he’s been on threes the rest of his career. It’s likely he’ll regress and if that happens, it’s hard to see what he will contribute on offense, since he’s neither an athletic screener who can act as a lob threat nor a post scorer.

Considering the price and the need for better center depth, I’m happy with the signing, but I’m not expecting Dieng to be a difference-maker.

J.R. Wilco: If there’s anything consistent about the way PATFO selects potential Spurs, it’s the way they target high-character guys, and it’s hard to imagine anyone with a better metric on the Character tab of Pop’s spreadsheet than Dieng — a man who’s dedicated himself to bringing help to his hometown hospital in Senegal. So the first thing I see him bringing is the perspective of another elder statesman-type for the youngsters to benefit from. Beyond that, everything else is a bonus; some defense, a shooter to stretch the floor, another body when facing a team that plays two bigs. The list of teams that wanted him was pretty long, and the fact that he chose the Spurs even though the outlook for San Antonio’s postseason fortunes this year are modest, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s looking to sign long-term, assuming the team wants to keep him around. I’m looking forward to seeing what the team looks like with him at the 5, and occasionally the 4.