Masai Ujiri connection could help Gorgui Dieng land with Raptors over Knicks

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Even though the Toronto Raptors already traded Norman Powell away at the trade deadline, they are by no means done adding pieces due to the fact they could still make the postseason tournament, which could help Masai Ujiri try to land former Memphis Grizzlies center Gorgui Dieng.

Due to the frontcourt crunch in Memphis, Dieng, who was Memphis’ highest-paid player, earned him a good, old-fashioned waive over the weekend, as Dieng was not going to get a ton of minutes alongside Jaren Jackson Jr., Canadian Brandon Clarke, and former Raptor Jonas Valanciunas.

Dieng, who spent the first 6.5 years of his career with the Minnesota Timberwolves, has averaged 7.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game in his career, and he is averaging exactly 7.9 points per game this season to go along with 4.5 boards.

His ability to bang down in the low post could get a bevy of teams interested in Dieng, including the rival New York Knicks following Mitchell Robinson’s fractured foot.

Ujiri has to know that the Knicks will try to steal Dieng from them to bolster their own playoff case. However, given his connection to Dieng, Toronto might win out.

Masai Ujiri should try to get Gorgui Dieng on the Toronto Raptors

Dieng, who originally hails from Senegal, has been known to attend events for Ujiri’s organization, Giants of Africa. The two are clearly friendly with one another, and Ujiri could give him a chance to become a starting center once more.

The Knicks might be a natural fit, on paper, given the hole at center and the fact that Tom Thibodeau coached him in Minnesota. However, it doesn’t sound like Dieng has the fondest memories of his time under Thibodeau.

Does Raptors target Gorgui Dieng not like Tom Thibodeau?

Per The Athletic, Dieng was frustrated with the lack of playing time he received under Thibodeau. Even though he didn’t play a ton under Ryan Saunders, he wasn’t “disrespected” like he was under Thibs. That could be a problem.

Dieng will likely be able to cash in in free agency, so why not go to a team that will give you a starting spot and a healthy dosage of shots per game. In New York, where the center position does little outside of finishing putbacks, Dieng might not get the statistical bump he’s looking for, all the while playing for a coach he hates.

Aron Baynes is simply not a starting center in the NBA, and although Dieng’s value is at an all-time, low, he is still a cut or two above him.

Dieng can give the Raptors an expert rebounder on the inside, one of the most physical presences in the game on the interior, and a solid interior defender. While he could link back up with Thibodeau on the Knicks, his friendship with Ujiri might be enough to sell him on coming to the Raptors.