Projected lottery pick Ousmane Dieng to enter NBA draft

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France's Ousmane Dieng, a 6-foot-10 projected lottery pick, will enter the 2022 NBA draft, he told ESPN on Friday.

He's the first European star to make the leap to Australia as part of the NBL's Next Stars program, and is ranked No. 12 in the ESPN 100 rankings of draft prospects.

Dieng, 18, made a strong impression on pro evaluators with his move to the NBL, where he had to compete against much older, more experienced pros and show a level of perseverance with his New Zealand Breakers forced to play an entire season of road games in Australia.

"Playing in a tough league with really good players was really good for me," Dieng told ESPN. "I learned a lot. The transition was significant, going up against much better players than I saw in France. The game is faster. Everyone is more physical.

"... I had to work on my body and I was lucky to have a great strength and conditioning coach. I improved my defense a lot this past year. The coaches had a big role in my improvement. I trusted them when I was struggling. I kept working and improved my game."

Dieng's move to the NBL followed past decisions by LaMelo Ball, Josh Giddey and R.J. Hampton to play in the league before becoming NBA first-round picks.

"I am more comfortable with the ball in my hands, [and] I can also play without the ball," Dieng told ESPN. "On defense, I can guard every position [Nos.] 1 through 4."

Dieng is considered an excellent passer and a defender with the potential to guard those multiple positions in the NBA. He told ESPN that fellow countryman Nic Batum of the LA Clippers and Toronto Raptors rookie of the year candidate Scottie Barnes are among the players whose film he watches and learns from.

"I am a little similar to [Barnes] in terms of his versatility," Dieng told ESPN.

Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service utilized by NBA, NCAA and International teams.