Wolves center Dieng earns Western Conference rookie of the month

Gorgui Dieng (right) averaged 12.1 points on 64.5 percent shooting and 12 rebounds per game in six starts during Minnesota's final nine games of March.

LM Otero/LM Otero/AP

MINNEAPOLIS — Gorgui Dieng sure wasn’t in line for many in-season or postseason honors through the first four months of his rookie campaign.

But a recent surge has the Timberwolves center earning league-wide recognition and may just earn him a spot on the NBA’s all-rookie team.

Dieng was announced Tuesday as the Western Conference’s rookie of the month for March. The 6-foot-11, 238-pound Louisville alum averaged 12.1 points on 64.5 percent shooting and 12 rebounds per game in six starts during Minnesota’s final nine games of the month.

Starting in place of Nikola Pekovic, Dieng recorded a double-double in all but one of his starts. In his first career start, March 16, he scored 12 points to go with 11 rebounds and five blocks.

Four days later at Houston, he became the fifth Timberwolves player to notch 20 points and 20 rebounds in the same game. Dieng is also the fifth man in franchise history to receive such rookie accolades.

For the entire month of March, Dieng averaged 8.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.

His sample size is small, but with this year’s rookie class being a thin one, there may be some room for Dieng on the NBA’s all-rookie list — probably the second team. He leads all first-year players with 18.2 rebounds per 48 minutes played and boasts the third-best shooting percentage among rookies since March 1 at 61.3 percent.

Dieng hardly resembles the kid that spent the first months of his NBA season either watching from the sideline or coming and getting in immediate foul trouble. Until the month of March, he appeared in just 37 games and played more than 13 minutes only twice during that span.

He averages 3.5 points and four rebounds per game for the year — numbers which limit his chances of top-level postseason recognition.

But his contributions in Pekovic’s stead haven’t gone unnoticed. Philadelphia guard Michael Carter-Williams claimed the East’s rookie of the month accolades for March.

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