The 48th-overall selection of the NBA draft, Keita Bates-Diop, played like a first-rounder for the Minnesota Timberwolves during Summer League.
More often than not, second-round draft picks don’t last in the NBA.
Wolves second-rounder Keita Bates-Diop is looking to become one of those late-pick jewels. And if Summer League taught us anything, Bates-Diop may very well have been the steal of the draft.
What’s most impressive about this clip comes around the :25 mark. Bates-Diop uses a nice power step to dribble-drive around the defender. Once he got enough space, he was able to use his body to put up a tough, contested shot. He didn’t try to do too much, but attacked the bucket and was physical while doing so.
Bates-Diop then goes and does the same thing in the next two plays as well. What’s most noticeable is his explosives and quick decision-making. Although most defenders in the Association will be quick enough and aware enough to stay ahead of him, Bates-Diop is showing the tools that may one day make him a threat.
Defensively, Bates-Diop used all of his 6-foot-9 frame to become a presence down low. He has averaged 1.3 blocks per game while grabbing 8.3 boards in summer action.
Even if he didn’t come through with the block, Bates-Diop was able to, more times than not, contest his man’s shot. For a team that needs defensive improvement, the Wolves may have found their answer.
With his size and reach, he is also a major threat for deflections and steals within the passing lane. He averaged 1.80 steals per game in Las Vegas while tallying numerous deflections.
Of course, he does have some room to improve with his shooting; he shot 37.5 percent (21-56) from the field and just 25.9 percent (7-27) from three during Summer League. However, his size should help him down the road when it comes to contested shots. For now, Bates-Diop should stick to what he did well in Summer League, and that’s driving to the hoop. He has time to work on his jumper.
As far as defense, Bates-Diop’s only real concern was off the ball. At times his awareness and positioning for help-defense were off, but with his otherwise NBA-ready defense this concern should fade away fast.
Coming into the season, look for Bates-Diop to be a defensive role player. He displayed his highly-touted defensive skills throughout Summer League with only a few hiccups. Offensively, he will be a nice presence around the rim. His game is attacking the rim with authority and he shouldn’t look to step away from that just yet.
If Summer League showed us anything, it’s that Bates-Diop’s defense is ready to go. That alone should allow the Big Ten Player of the Year to earn valuable minutes. If his shot improves over time, Bates-Diop could very well be the steal of the 2018 NBA Draft.