MINNEAPOLIS — Gorgui Dieng’s stoic, head-down rookie surge has been officially recognized.
A 125-member panel of NBA media selected the Timberwolves center to the league’s 2013-14 all-rookie second team, honoring his late-season contributions that helped him go from bench-warming rookie to effective starting center. Starting 15 of Minnesota’s final 18 games, he averaged 12 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per contest.
Dieng joins Felton Spencer, Kevin Garnett, Craig Smith, Kevin Love, Jonny Flynn, Wes Johnson and Derrick Williams as Minnesota players to earn second-team honors.
Had he not come on later in the year, Dieng may have topped that even.
The first few months of the season, the long, raw Louisville product looked lost. He finished the year averaging 4.8 points and five rebounds per game, often getting in foul trouble and not receiving many sustained minutes.
Dieng never got discouraged, he said. "I think I belong here," he told reporters in March. "I always had my confidence. I’ve always been ready."
True to his word, when top two centers Nikola Pekovic and Ronny Turiaf were both out with injuries, Dieng stepped in and flourished.
He scored 12 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked five shots March 16 against Sacramento in his first career start, becoming the first NBA player to record 10-plus points, 10 or more rebounds and five or more blocks in his starting-lineup debut since Elden Campbell in 1991. Two games, later he became the fourth rookie in the past 20 years to notch a 20-point, 20-rebound game by scoring 22 points and pulling down 21 boards.
Receiving 21 first-team votes and 54 second-team votes, Dieng was placed on the second team with Kelly Olynyk, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Cody Zeller and Steve Adams. Michael Carter-Williams, Victor Oladipo, Trey Burke, Mason Plumlee and Tim Hardaway Jr. comprise the first team.