2022-23 Thunder player grades: Ousmane Dieng
The 2022-23 Oklahoma City Thunder’s season ended with the play-in tournament loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, which means it’s time for reflection.
Being one of the biggest overachievers in the league, the Thunder finished with a 40-42 record after being predicted by many to have high lottery odds.
Now that the season is in the books, let’s go back and evaluate all 19 players who suited up for the Thunder this past season. Grades will be handed out to every player in terms of what their expectations were heading into the season and how they lived up to them.
The 10th player in this installment is Ousmane Dieng, who essentially played the NBA equivalent of a redshirt season as he split time between the Thunder and G League.
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(Editor’s note: We are starting individual grades for all players from the 2022-23 Oklahoma City Thunder. To access other reviews as part of this ongoing series, click here.)
26.5% 3-point shooting
65.2% free-throw shooting
True-shooting percentage: 50.5%
3-point attempt rate: 54.1%
Win shares: 0.4
Usage rate: 15.9%
Significant Percentile Finishes:
Cut: 88.3 percentile
Transition: 44.1 percentile
P&R ball-handler: 15.4 percentile
Spot up: 18 percentile
2023-24: $4.8 million
2024-25: $5 million (team option)
2025-26: $6.7 million (team option)
It was essentially a redshirt season for Dieng, who appeared in only 39 games. While Jalen Williams was busy making a case for Rookie of the Year, Dieng hopped back and forth between the Thunder and the G League’s OKC Blue when healthy.
Heading into the season, most knew the 19-year-old was going to be a project and that he’d have a rough rookie season due to this. It was a slow start for Dieng, as he appeared in just 11 of OKC’s first 21 games and averaged just 15 minutes.
But in a three-game stretch in December, it felt like the wheels started to turn for the 19-year-old as he averaged 8.3 points on 73.3% shooting and 4.7 rebounds. This was capped off with a 15-point performance in a win against the Atlanta Hawks on Dec. 5.
It felt like the Thunder had something there with Dieng and that he was slowly — but surely — playing his way into the rotation. Welp, all of that hope and excitement was quickly erased 10 days later as he suffered a fractured wrist.
After being recalled from the Blue following an assignment, it was later revealed Dieng suffered his second wrist fracture since being drafted by the Thunder — his first being in summer league. The injury halted any momentum he created as he missed the next six weeks.
After Dieng returned, he enjoyed five consecutive games with appearances for the Thunder, where he averaged 3.6 points in 13 minutes. Then another large gap of appearances occurred, as Dieng spent more time in the G League.
By the time the G League season ended, Dieng returned with the Thunder and was a constant rotation piece in their final 20 regular season games, where he averaged 5.7 points and 2.8 rebounds in 14 minutes.
His best game was in the regular-season finale, where he put up a season-high 22 points, nine assists and eight rebounds in a glorified G League scrimmage against the Memphis Grizzlies. It was a strong finish to a lackluster rookie campaign.
‘Aggressive’ was the word that most associated with Dieng in his rookie season. Whenever Mark Daigneault, Kam Woods, Sam Presti or his teammates were asked about Dieng, they always mentioned how they think he is physically strong enough to be more aggressive on his drives.
This seems like a mindset problem for Dieng that I think will solve once he grows comfortable in OKC and continues strengthening his frame. It’s easy to forget that he’s a 19-year-old kid who moved to a completely different country and culture while dealing with a language barrier — once those off-court factors naturally resolve over time, I think it’ll leak over to his on-court production.
“He takes challenges. He left France and went to New Zealand. He entered the NBA at an extremely young age, being a player that doesn’t speak perfect English,” Presti said about Dieng in his exit interview. “I like that. I like the fact that he’s taken challenges, he’s taken risks, and he’s bet on his own being.”
As mentioned earlier, Dieng — expectedly — didn’t do much during his rookie season. The 19-year-old is a long-term project that will take a few years to fully develop into a functional NBA wing.
With that said though, there were certainly flashes throughout the season that showed off Dieng’s potential of being a ball-handling wing scorer who can shoot from outside. This is an extremely important skill to refine for Dieng, as it looks like he’ll be a 3-point shooting wing since 54% of his shots this season were from outside. If he continues at a similar rate, he must turn into an efficient outside shooter.
You can definitely see why the Thunder were enamored by the 6-foot-10 wing as he handled the ball so effortlessly and created his own shots off the dribble throughout glimpses this season.
This was especially common with the Blue, where he had the freedom to experiment with his offensive skills without fearing serious consequences. In nine regular-season games, he averaged 17.2 points on 45.3% shooting, 7.8 rebounds, three assists and 34.9% shooting from 3 on seven attempts. In 11 Showcase Cup games, he averaged 15.8 points on 44.9% shooting, 8.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 34.3% shooting from 3 on 6.1 attempts.
Superb numbers that will hopefully one day happen at the NBA level.
Dieng mentioned in his exit interview that he plans to play in summer league, which is a smart choice as it gives him extra reps to be one of the main scoring options against inferior talent.
In terms of what to expect from Dieng in his second season, I think it’s reasonable to assume he’ll improve and get a larger/more consistent role on the team. He’ll also likely still get a healthy dosage of the G League.
It’s easy to forget about Dieng, especially with his lottery rookie counterpart making such an immediate splash with the Thunder, and was one of the best rookies in the league. But that shouldn’t take away from the fact that the Thunder gave up four first-round picks to acquire Dieng, which means that they clearly see something special in him.
It’s important to stay patient with him throughout this upcoming season as tangible results will likely not surface until his third/fourth seasons. Only then, can we properly judge Dieng on whether or not he was worth the draft capital to acquire him. Until then though, all we can do is patiently wait and hope for signs of improvement.
Final Grade: C-