Last season I placed second in an 8 category roto, auction, keeper league with the following players as my starting five: PG-Chris Paul; SG-Avery Bradley; SF-Kawhi Leonard; PF-Paul Millsap; C-Marc Gasol. When Gasol got injured I spent almost all of my free agent budget to grab Gorgui Dieng off the wire, as someone had dropped him during his early season slump. Later in the season I realized there is little discernible difference between what Gasol offers and what Dieng offers. That’s why I’m using my 4th keeper slot to keep him in this 4 keeper league (along with CP3, Kawhi, and Thrillsap).
In roto leagues I like to focus my efforts on ensuring my percentages remain high as I think those categories are often overlooked by most GMs and you can snag a few roto points fairly easily. To accomplish this objective, I like point guards with abnormally high FG% and big men with abnormally high FT%. One poor shooter will cause your percentages to plummet, particularly regarding FT%. The league average for free throws 75% or higher, meaning one sub 70% shooter in your starting lineup can cause you to fall to the bottom half of your league in FT%. A sub 50% shooter such as Drummond will ensure you fall to the bottom three.
Consequently, big men who shoot over 75% from the line are incredibly valuable, and Dieng very easily could shoot 80% from the line this year. The counterpoint is that he shoots free throws at such a low volume that he won’t anchor you much in that regard. However, that argument completely misses the point. It’s not so much that Dieng will anchor your FT%, it’s that he’s replacing big men who could potentially destroy your FT%. Even mediocre guards shoot in the 80s in FT%, so if your starting center shoots anywhere near that, it nearly guarantees that your team will be shooting in the 80s. That’s good enough to finish first in most leagues. Dieng’s career averages in the percentages are FG-51.6% and FT%-77.8% but that includes an outlier rookie season in which he shot 63.4% from the line. His shooting mechanic is solid so I’m inclined to believe he’ll be able to repeat the 82.7% he shot last season, or come close to it. A player that can shoot 50/80 is inherently value based on those marks alone.
If efficient/low volume scoring was all that Dieng offered, he would be a solid mid-round value. What pushes him into the early rounds is that he is a defensive ace, almost on par with Nerlens Noel. With all of the hype surrounding Noel last season, I don’t understand why Dieng isn’t more hyped this season. Noel was projected to be a stocks Jedi and many experts projected he would average 4 total stocks last season. He averaged 1.8 SPG and 1.5 BPG. Many people thought that his regression was due to sharing space with Jahlil Okafor. However, the season prior Noel averaged 1.8 SPG/1.9 BPG without Okafor, which indicates to me that his upside for stocks is capped at just under 4 stocks per game, and that the expert’s projections were optimistic. This was while playing more minutes per game than Dieng. Also, Noel’s value is eviscerated by career shooting averages of 49 FG% and 60 FT%. Meanwhile, Dieng averaged 1.1 SPG/1.2 BPG last season and 1.0 SPG/1.7 BPG the season prior. Generally, I don’t like to make player projections based on their per 36 numbers but in this case it’s warranted as Dieng’s problem was always minutes. With Kevin Garnett retiring and Nikola Pekovic reported to miss the entire season with injury, 36 minutes per game isn’t unreasonable to expect out of Dieng. Not to mention that Tom Thibodeau, the new coach of the Wolves, is notorious for pushing his starters to the limit. Dieng’s career per 36 numbers paint a rosy picture: 12.5 PPG/10.3 RPG/2.3 APG/1.6 BPG/1.5 SPG on percentages of 51.6%/77.8%. Dieng this year has the potential have the value that Noel was supposed to have last year.
An even better comparison for Dieng is Al Horford. Al Horford is perennially underrated, perhaps due to his value arising from subtle multi-cat production rather than dominance in any one category. Last season, Horford’s per 36 splits were: 17.1 PPG/8.2 RPG/3.6 APG/1.7 BPG/.9 SPG/1.3 3PG on percentages of 50.5%/79.8%. Horford is considered a solid lock for top 50 value among fantasy insiders and Dieng projects to compare favorably with Horford. Horford was always a weak to middling rebounder for a big man while Dieng is above average. Horford, while solid defensively, never had the stocks that Dieng projects to have. While Horford has slightly more scoring value, their percentages are functionally a wash. Horford has a very slight edge in assists. Finally, Horford added a three point shot this season. That said, there’s indications that Dieng has the potential for developing an outside shot. Most players who shoot 80% from the line can probably extend their range by a few feet and become at least mediocre at shooting from beyond the arch. Dieng also made some threes last season. While I don’t project him to start bombing threes, particularly with defense oriented Thibodeau in charge, but the potential is certainly there for Dieng to start making threes. Other than a little scoring and some threes, I think Dieng is a better fantasy player than Horford. Stocks are harder to come by than threes and scoring and very players average three or more stocks per game.
Few players get the stocks and rebounds that Dieng has the potential to get. Of those that get three stocks per game, very few have the excellent shooting splits that Dieng has. I retained him as my fourth keeper in four keeper/14 team league which means I think he will be a top 50 asset. While players in the first round are more versatile than Dieng, I reasonably believe he has the potential upside for returning second or third round value next season. Given that he’s projected to be drafted in the fifth or sixth round in most leagues, there’s a huge discrepancy between how the market values him and his true value.