Making the Case for Ousmane Dieng

When looking at the 2003 born international generation it is clear that there are some very talented players. Jean Montero has been considered one of the top players with some huge performances for the youth Dominican Republic and Gran Canaria teams. Yannick Nzosa is a rotation player for UNICAJA Malaga. Jeremy Sochan has committed to Baylor and looks ready to contribute straight away. Fedor Žugić is a rotation player for Budućnost. Lefteris Mantzoukas has been getting first team experience and looks to be another top NBA prospect.

All of these players listed above as well as others in this class could end up as NBA players. However, the player that may end up the best is Ousmane Dieng from France. He is currently listed as 6’7 but there have been reports that he is closer to 6’9 and likely still growing. After bursting on to the scene for France’s youth teams and playing for Pôle France, his development looks promising.

Back playing at ANGT Kaunas at the start of 2019, Dieng was a small part of his team. This is understandable as there were players two years older than him on the team. Later in 2019 at the FIBA U16 Europe Championships, Dieng played a larger role for France. As the lead initiator he was making plays for himself as well as others. At his size the ability to create with the ball in his hands made Dieng an enticing prospect.

Progressing from that tournament Dieng started to play consistently in NM1 during the 2019/20 season. In that season he stood out as one of the most talented players at ANGT Belgrade. This season he is still playing in the NM1. He is a stand out player to watch at any youth tournaments that occur this summer.

Size

A huge part of Dieng’s potential is his size. He was always a rather tall guard but has now grown to be the height of a legit wing. At times, he has been playing as a big man for Pôle France, which gives you an idea of the height and length that he possesses when he is trusted in that role.

The growth he has shown in the past couple of years makes him even more promising as it suggests that he might not be done growing yet. While I can’t see his medical records and x-ray him to see if this is the case I’m sure NBA teams will be aware of it. If he does keep growing then we are looking at another unicorn.

One of the negatives of the size and recent growth spurt of Dieng is that he’s still very skinny. It will probably take longer for him to add the weight and strength needed to be effective in the NBA. It isn’t really a concern for now as he is still young but something to note when assessing his limitations at the moment.  

There is no confirmed wingspan out there for Dieng but it is safe to say that it is large. The length that he possesses is important for the way he plays. On the offensive end it’s useful for him to have the length to shoot over the top of defenders as well as creating more windows for him to make passes with. Defensively he uses his length to play passing lanes, contesting shots and rotating to help.

Look at the clip below to get an idea of not only Dieng’s size but how fluidly he moves. While he does disappear for some of the clip you can see the body control he possesses as he decelerates to finish the layup.

Playmaking

Having played as a lead initiator at younger years has allowed Dieng to develop his playmaking ability to a point where he has mismatches almost every time he has the ball. I don’t want to make the comparison of them as players as it is unfair to compare to prospects to current or former All-Stars but it is similar to the way the Pelicans use Brandon Ingram on offense at times. When Ingram is playing as the 4 he will handle the ball a lot as he has mismatches against slower defenders. He puts fear in to the defenders and uses his ball handling ability to go towards the rim when they play up or shoot the pull up when he is given space.

Dieng’s handle is pretty good for his size. I think this comes from his experience playing as a point guard/ lead initiator. He will often pull the ball back out and dribble his way in to a shot. There are times when he does lose control of the ball in tight spaces or just make simple mishandles without pressure.

Here you can see Dieng get a switch out of the pick and roll, pull the ball out and then size up the defender to get the shot that he wants.

When Dieng handles the ball he is usually at his best in pick and roll situations. The ability to run pick and rolls at his size at a young age projects to be useful to play on the wing in the NBA. Creating advantages through pick and rolls is simple but effective. With Dieng’s pull up shooting ability teams need to play up on him which opens up the floor for him to find open teammates. His height, length and vision allow him to make passes over the top of defenses.

Below is a clip of Dieng where he faces a hedge and has the ball handling ability to spin away and makes a nice read with a live dribble pass across his body.

One of the most impressive parts of Dieng’s game is his live dribble passing ability. When he sees a defender sagging off his man he is able to whip passes across the court. He prefers to pass the ball across his body from his right hand. These pin point passes will force defenders to stay on their man and open up the court, especially in pick and rolls.

Here is an example of Dieng getting a switch out of a pick and roll. From here he is able to use his length and throws the live dribble cross court pass to make the defense pay for trying to switch off the ball.

Generally, Dieng is very creative with the way he plays. There is a natural flair to his game that other players just don’t have. When he’s coming down the floor he can go behind his back to avoid a defender. Driving to the rim he also likes to get flashy with drop off passes. His length and vision play in to this as defenders simply can’t stop the ball.

When Dieng is attacking the rim his ability to drop the ball off to his big man is helped with his length. Here is a clip from ANGT which highlights his ability to hang in the air and use his length to drop the ball off.

The clip below gives an idea of the general flair in Dieng’s game. The audacity he has to throw a behind the back pass to ignite the fast break and then hit a three in transition. There is so much talent here.

The Importance of Creation

In the NBA initiation, specifically primary initiation, is key to a successful offense. This is why the most valuable players in the NBA are players who create offense. Not many players can create from a standstill. In order for these players to create they need an advantage over the defense. On offense these advantages usually come in the form of size, length, athleticism, shooting and playmaking ability.

The only way for an offense to function in the NBA is with some sort of creation. These players break down defenses to a point where it’s not just them that can get a shot but everyone else on the team can as well. While point guards are usually tasked with running an offense, players on the wings that can create offense are so valuable and much harder to stop because of their size, ability to shoot, and make plays.

I like to think of all of the top creators in the league as unique. When saying this I mean that these players are outliers in areas that so many other players in the league aren’t. If you think about the top players then you start to notice. For example, LeBron stands out with his athleticism and playmaking ability, Durant stands out with his length and shooting, Giannis stands out with his athleticism and size. You can go through all the top players in the NBA and come up with a few skills that they stand out from the rest of the league with.

The players listed above as well as the other elite creators in the league have advantages against defenses due to the outlier skills or tools that they possess. Now I’m not saying that Dieng will be as good as these players. I’m not even saying that Dieng will be able to create at a high level in the NBA. But, at this stage it looks like Ousmane Dieng could possess outlier skills in terms of size and length plus shot making ability. When you add in plus playmaking ability as well as the ability to make plays on defense then you’re looking at a high level prospect.

Shot Making

One of the skills that stood out back at U16 was Dieng’s ability to shoot off the dribble. This skill is crucial at the NBA so having the ability to do so on the wing makes a player become incredibly valuable. Below are clips of all of the makes that Dieng hit from deep at that tournament. As you will see the majority of these makes come from either off the dribble or on the move.

For a player to be shooting shots like this at U16 it’s usually a pretty good indicator that they’re going to be able to make tough shots as they get older. As he is getting older Dieng is still taking and making just as tough shots.

According to Dieng’s RealGM page his totals from 3 since ANGT in 2018/19 are 97 makes from 306 attempts which comes out at 31.7%. Then looking at his free throw numbers the totals are 57 makes from 71 attempts which comes out at 80.3%. The volume of 3 point shots is promising while the free throw numbers will need to see a bigger sample to get a better idea of his true percentage.

Looking at the percentages of Dieng’s shot made suggest that he isn’t a very consistent shooter from the field yet. I would somewhat agree with this, but it must be noted that he takes difficult shots which is a cause for the lower percentages. Given the difficulty of his shots the current percentage from 3 would actually indicate potential as a shooter.

When assessing the potential of a player shooting you take in to account a few things. There are factors like shot form, touch, shot difficulty, versatility, volume, free throw numbers and then just basic percentages. I think that most of these factors are on Dieng’s side when it comes to shooting.

I’ve already touched on the shot difficulty but shot volume can also be linked to difficulty as it would generally indicate a higher reliance from his team to shoot the ball. Back at U16 he was shooting five 3s a game in 22 minutes over 7 games and then in 2019/20 ANGT, he shot 8.75 a game in 28 minutes in only 4 games. In NM1, he shot 6.1 a game last year in 25 minutes and this year he’s at 6.2 a game in 29 minutes.

These numbers show a high volume of threes being taken. In fact, over his career he is attempting 9.3 3s per 40 minutes. This volume makes his outlook as a shooter look even more promising as he has the confidence at a young age to be taking these difficult shots at a high volume. This is crucial for his development as he can learn from these reps and grow as a player.

Another aspect of Dieng’s shooting that I want to touch on is his versatility as a shooter. While a huge appeal of Dieng is that he can make shots off the dribble, he can also be utilised effectively as a shooter in other situations. He has shown the ability to hit shots off the catch coming off movement, to hit turnarounds in then post and shooting off the dribble in the mid range.

Here is an example of Dieng popping out off of a screen to hit a three.

The versatility that he has shown to be used in various situations highlights potential. Being able to play off the ball is important in the NBA and he has shown the ability to do so. Shooting versatility allows to see how a player scales up to the NBA level. You know that the player isn’t just buffing up their percentages by standing in the corner and shooting open corner 3s. If Dieng does reach his ceiling then the shooting versatility that he has shown at a young age will be important as he will be able to go and get a shot when he needs to.

His ability to make shots has been slowly improving as he is becoming more consistent shooting off the dribble. While his percentages may never end up being elite, they will definitely improve from where they are now. Given his size he will get better looks than smaller creators but he will be creating off the dribble which will hurt his efficiency.

Below are two clips. In the first one you will see Dieng going to his right where he opts for the side step three. It is a quick one dribble move and shows his ability to get a shot off when needed. In the next one you see him stepping back going to the left. The play is actually defended well but Dieng just hits a tough shot with the clock winding down.

Footwork is so important when it comes to shooting. It’s even more important when shooting pull ups and other difficult shots. Good footwork allows for an efficient move which prepares the player for the shot. It helps them to stay on balance which helps out especially when they are on the move and need to shoot the ball quickly.

Dieng’s footwork at a young age is impressive as he has a variety of moves that he goes to already. His long strides create more space compared to other players. While he is creating this space with his strides his feet work excellently to maximize the efficiency in the move and prepare his shot. This is often the case when he is shooting step back and side step threes. Dieng loves going to these moves so it is clear he has the confidence in his footwork to shoot these shots.

In the tweet below it is a perfect example of the footwork which makes Dieng so deadly as a shooter. He takes a pound dribble to execute his step back and his feet allow for an efficient move with no lost motion.

The Importance of Pull Up Shooting

Everyone knows how important shooting is in the NBA now but the most important aspect of shooting for a team to succeed is to have pull up shooting. Keeping defenses honest is a crucial part of creation from the perimeter. It seems like anyone running a pick and roll is instructed to shoot a three when a defender goes under on them. Pull up shooting opens up the floor to make plays.

When a player is taking pull up or step back threes it is so difficult to guard them. This is even more the case for wings and bigs. When you think of all of the great wings in the NBA right now they basically all have the ability to put the ball on the floor and make a pull up 3. Think Kevin Durant, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Jayson Tatum, even LeBron James now has this as a reliable tool that he can use.

Here are some examples of the type of shots that these stars take and make.

A large reason behind the increase in off the dribble threes taken does come from analytics. While analytics will say that these star wings taking a mid range isn’t a bad shot but taking more threes and making them at a higher percentage than in the past they will perform better according to analytics. In the past these haven’t been shots that people practiced a whole lot of but now as players are getting used to taking these shots more often it is becoming a better weapon to use.

Now that players have made it a focus to take more shots at the rim and from three defenses key in on this. Defenses might prefer to pass on protecting the mid range and opt to focus on stopping threes and shots at the rim. This is when the old school art of the mid range can make a return but it is best if players that are actually good at the shot take it. Being able to score at 3 levels puts pressure on the defense. These players are able to get looks almost all of the time.

In the last section I was making the case for Dieng as a shooter by explaining that he has upside as a shooter even though his stats aren’t amazing yet at the youth level. My belief in him becoming a good pull up shooter comes from the difficult shots he is already taking at a young age. His coordination, fluidity as well as his height and length will allow him to continue to take these shots. He will force defenders to play up on him. His height will let him shoot over the top of smaller defenders. Then he can use his ball handling and playmaking ability to beat slower defenders either off the dribble or through passing windows.

Defense

Dieng tends to fly under the radar on defense. I think this comes from his inconsistency on that end of the floor. At times you will see him switching screens on to a point guard, sticking with them and then blocking their jump shot. Other times he will just lazily trail a player around a screen without fighting and give up a layup.

This is a clip showing his disruptive potential on defense as he sitches on to the small and blocks his jumpshot to ignite the fast break.

Dieng’s length can be so impactful when he is engaged. When engaged he is effective as a defender both on and off the ball. While it is concerning that there are periods when his effort wanes it is clear that Dieng has the skills to be able to be an effective defender.

I think his foot speed is actually pretty good for his size. When going one on one with defenders he is able to move his feet and flip his hips to counter moves. With his length it makes it easier for him to contest jump shots and recover to block shots at the rim. This will help to make up for competing against better athletes in the NBA.

Here is an example of Dieng moving well on defense and then using his length to contest the shot.

As Dieng tends to be one of the taller players on the floor he is often tasked with guarding 4s or even 5s at times. In these situations it is common for them to take him to the post to take advantage of his lack of strength. This is where his length comes in to play. While he doesn’t have the strength to bother them in the post his length does. So even as he is getting backed down in the post he can still contest their shots.

Below is a perfect example of this. Dieng gets pushed deep under the rim but is so long that he is able to block the shot.

Usually Dieng’s defensive breakdowns come from a lack of understanding or inexperience. On the ball the most common breakdown I see from him is peaking at screens. Smart ball handlers take advantage of this and get blowbys as he isn’t prepared to slide his feet. This might not be his fault all the time as it is on the help defenders to call out screens. However, the frequency that this happens isn’t great and will be something he needs to clean up on.

Here is an example of him standing up to peak at the screen. Once this happens the ball handler just blows straight by him.

Off the ball the most common breakdowns come from him trying to cheat on screens. I think this is another result of inexperience. As he gets older he will understand that he needs to fight harder through and around screens. This is also probably a case of his youth showing as well. He is still young and his conditioning will improve as he gets older and becomes a better athlete. When he adds strength it will make life easier for him to fight through screens as he is still thin at the moment.

In this clip you see his lack of strength as he actually jumps out of the way of the screen and is left trailing the play.

Potential

The potential that Ousmane Dieng possesses is off the charts. He is approaching unicorn status as he handles the ball, passes and shoots at 6’9″ on the wing. The fluidity to his game makes him beautiful to watch as he just glides around the court. He can get to his spots and just rise up and shoot.

The talent is clearly there for Dieng, it will just be about becoming more consistent on both ends of the floor. His percentages have shown him to be an inconsistent shooter as well as a negative assist to turnover ratio in NM1 over the past two seasons. The flashes of brilliance from Dieng make him so exciting though. If he does reach his ceiling he could end up as one of the best players in the 2022 draft let alone just in the international pool.

Realistically, Dieng is still a decent way away from being an NBA player at the moment. While he has a ton of offensive potential it will probably be questions on defense that are a problem. He will need to get stronger if he wants to guard 4s. Then when guarding 3s it becomes a question of his lateral quickness and if he can keep up with these smaller players. While he has shown amazing flashes of defensive disruption it will take some time before he consistently produces on the defensive end.

There have been some rumors linking Dieng to some high major division-1 NCAA programs and especially Duke for next season. If this does happen, I fully expect him to blow up as a mainstream prospect as he gets more attention from the American audience. The comparisons to Cam Reddish are just waiting to be made from mainstream draft and college basketball content producers.

Recently news came out that Pôle France won’t be participating in ANGT Istanbul. This would have been a great opportunity to see Dieng go against some of the best competition in Europe at his age. As he will miss the competition and other players will be able to compete there is a good chance that Dieng will go underrated. This would be great for an NBA team that could potentially pick up a lottery level talent for cheap.

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