Louisville center Gorgui Dieng, who's projected to be a late first-round pick, will work out for the Knicks and Nets before the June 27 draft, his agent, Makhtar N'Diaye, confirmed with ESPNNewYork.com.
The Knicks are looking into drafting a big man to upgrade their diminished frontcourt, and Dieng could arguably be the best center available in the late first round. The Knicks pick at No. 24. As for the Nets, who have the 22nd selection, they're interested in a defensive-minded backup behind Brook Lopez.
The 6-foot-11, 230-pound Dieng anchored the No. 1-ranked defense in the country during his senior year at Louisville en route to the championship over Michigan. He's a tremendous shot-blocker (2.5 per game), and has great athleticism and lateral movement covering and showing on screens. His length and agility then allow him to quickly rotate down and protect the rim. Dieng is also a tenacious rebounder (9.4 boards per game).
Offensively, Dieng, who was a college teammate of J.R. Smith's younger brother, Chris, from 2010-12, excels in pick-and-rolls. He shows good timing while catching the ball on the go and finishing with strong dunks. His post-up game, however, needs some polishing, which is why he wasn't a focal point in the Cardinals' offense (9.8 points per game).
The Knicks and Nets will also work out center Jeff Withey (Kansas), who's 23 years old like Dieng and similarly skilled defensively. Withey averaged 3.9 blocks per game last season. Both Dieng and Withey's experience and success in the highest ranks of college basketball should make them appealing to the defensive-minded Mike Woodson, who favors seasoned players.
While Dieng and Withey haven't yet played in the NBA, they'll likely be higher on the Knicks' radar than younger and international big men Giannis Adetokunbo (Greece), Rudy Gobert (France) and Lucas Noguiera (Brazil). A.J. Matthews (Farmingdale State), who worked out for the Knicks on Wednesday, is more suited for the second round. The Knicks are reportedly looking to trade for a pick then.
Beyond Dieng and Withey, Tony Mitchell (North Texas) will likely be a Knicks' favorite entering the draft. ESPN.com draft expert Chad Ford, in his latest first-round projection, has the Knicks taking Mitchell at No. 24.
"The Knicks have never shied away from taking a risk on a player. Mitchell has the upside of a top-10 pick, but he was in an awful situation in North Texas last season. With that in mind, his mediocre season might have been the best he could have done. He's an elite athlete and a terrific rebounder -- the Knicks could use both in its frontcourt."
The Knicks are also exploring drafting a point guard, especially now that Jason Kidd has retired. Some of the top candidates who could be available in the late first round are: Erick Green (Virginia Tech), Pierre Jackson (Baylor), Ricardo Ledo (Providence), Nate Wolters (South Dakoka State), Isaiah Canaan (Murray State), who worked out for the Knicks on Wednesday, and Brandon Paul (Illinois), who will be in New York on Thursday.
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