Aaron Wiggins, “the man who saved basketball” in his rookie season, looked like a solid potential rotation player with upside as a three and D wing. Revisiting last year’s summer league, it was apparent to Thunder fans that Wiggins had taken a leap. His minutes may have gone down in year two, but Wiggins took a step forward defensively and a leap in his three-point percentage. He also led the Thunder to an 11-3 record when he started.
I bring up all of this to ask…
Which returning OKC Thunder player will take the biggest leap from last season?
(Also, I will take any chance to brag on Aaron Wiggins I can get)
Although he is back for his second season, Ousmane Dieng will still be the second youngest player on the Thunder’s Summer League roster, only behind Cason Wallace when he is added.
Dieng had an incredibly unique and difficult rookie season. Coming over from France and New Zealand, he sometimes looked like a fish out of water on an NBA court. He got settled in as he adjusted to the NBA game and showed flashes of why he was worth trading three first-round picks for him in 2022.
The thing that most people, including OKC Thunder fans and people within the Thunder, are hoping to see in year two for Dieng is physicality. Sporting a 6’10 210 pound frame with a 7′ wingspan, you would not think physicality would be an issue. Some of this maybe just be his age playing against grown men who have been strength training for years at the professional level.
Still, there are times when Dieng looks like he is dodging and avoiding contact, like Neo in The Matrix. Not to the same level, but this is something that Josh Giddey had to figure out last season. Rather than adjusting his game to others’ physicality, force, and contact, Giddey began using his body as a battering ram to drive and move out smaller defenders.
I’m not expecting Dieng to look like prime Shaq dunking on guys and hanging on the rim, but I would not even be mad if he averaged a charge a game. Just to see him really make a concerted effort to get downhill and punish smaller players, I think, could really help his game. Dieng is an incredibly skilled player but can get knocked off his spot. If he can develop the ability to not only hold his ground but be a physical force, then that would unlock all types of roles, scenarios, and an even higher ceiling for the Frenchman.