Both the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks weren’t quite pleased with their end position at the end of the playoffs, both losing in series they had home court advantage in. In order to make sure it doesn’t happen next season, they’re looking to strengthen their front-court depth in the NBA draft, looking at both Jeff Withey and Gorgui Dieng.
The Nets have the number 22 pick heading into the draft, and according to more than one mock draft, they’ll take a chance on Dieng, the 23-year old Senegalese center who was the Big East defensive player of the year in 2013, and in the All-Big East first team as well, in a season that ended with him winning the national championship and playing in two consecutive final fours.
He spent three seasons in Louisivlle with Rick Pitino, and unlike someone he’s often compared to, Hasheem Thabeet, Dieng isn’t as raw offensively as the Thunder’s center, and most agree is a lot more NBA-ready than other project-type centers, averaging 9.8 points and 9.4 rebounds last season.
Withey, like Dieng, is a much more of a defensive specialist, finishing four years with Kansas as the best defensive player in the nation last season, winning (joint with Victor Oladipo) the national defensive player of the year award. He averaged 3.9 blocks per game, a slight improvement from his 3.6 during his Junior year, overshadowed by Anthony Davis and his incredible Freshman season.
Withey, who played over 30 minutes a game for the first time in his college career, also averaged 13.9 points and 8.5 rebounds, is probably a little bit more NBA ready than Dieng, but it seems the Cardinals’ player is ranked a little bit higher, with people seeing a bit more potential in his developmental graph than what Withey has going for him. However, it’s likely that both of them will be taken in the late first-round, and are scheduled to visit with both teams in the days leading up to the draft.
For the Knicks, there’s also the point guard issue they’d like to address, so while there’s no chance, according to what we see right now, that neither team picks one of these players, there is a chance that if the Knicks don’t have Dieng to take on the board by the time their number is called, they might opt to try and go for a point guard, with quite a few who fit the substitute role probably still available at that time.
There are also those who suggest the Knicks will try and go for a high risk, high reward kind of player, which might mean that Tony Mitchell out of North Texas might be someone they’ll be going for, after impressing in his first two years with the Mean Green.