The Minnesota Timberwolves drafted Keita Bates-Diop in the second round of the 2018 NBA Draft. Here’s why the forward deserves more minutes with an injury plagued roster.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have had an injury-plagued season. They’ve seen injuries from General Soreness, Andrew Wiggins, Robert Covington, Tyus Jones, Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose. The team can’t catch a break, but there’s a hidden gem that deserves playing time and that guy is Keita Bates-Diop.
Bates-Diop was a first-round-worthy player but because he wasn’t that one-and-done prototypical player, it caused him to slip a little farther down in the draft. NBA teams value young talent with potential and he entered the draft at 22 years of age — still young by all means, but not that 18- or 19-year-old sweet spot teams love.
He played all four seasons at Ohio State and it wasn’t until his senior year that he really turned things on. In his last year, Bates-Diop brought the Buckeyes to the NCAA Tournament, where they were only able to advance to the Round of 32.
In that same season, he won the Big Ten Player of the Year award, assembling 19.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.6 blocks and 0.9 steals. Bates-Diop stands in at 6-foot-9 and 229 pounds — the perfect size to play either the 3 or 4 positions.
With his long arms and size, he’s able to play solid defense — hence why he almost averaged over one steal and block per game in college. He can also stretch the floor, averaging 35.9 percent from 3 on 5.4 attempts during his senior year.
These stats are all real and great, but things need to translate in the pro’s if he wants to stay. He’s yet to be given an opportunity, appearing in just three games this season during garbage time.
In that time Bates-Diop hasn’t played well, but it’s hard to fault him when he’s only averaging 8.3 minutes per contest. He’s shot the ball poorly and has only registered 1.3 points per game in that span. Giving him more consistent minutes would allow the young forward more time to develop.
The former Buckeye has spent the majority of his time in Iowa for the Wolves affiliate G League team. He’s actually performed really well down there, starting in 16 games he’s suited up in. There he’s averaging 17.7 points, 8.9 rebounds. 1.9 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.1 steals. It’s clear that he has two-way potential just by looking at his stat line.
He’s also shooting 43.9 from the field and 33.3 percent from downtown.
The more people watch him, the more people start to fall in love with his game. The team is currently pretty banged up, losing Tyus Jones recently to an ankle injury. With Covington out, the Timberwolves have been missing another forward to play.
That has resulted in Luol Deng and Anthony Tolliver getting extended minutes. Tolliver should be getting minutes whether the roster is healthy or not, but Minnesota has used him as a small forward during this recent stretch. They’d be better off using him as a power forward where he will be able to matchup with opponents similar in size.
Bates-Diop doesn’t need to be playing 20 minutes a game, but there should be at least 5-to-15 minutes each night for the forward. That is especially true when the team is facing foul trouble, much like they did in the recent loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
Minnesota can use an extra body that comes in and plays both ends of the floor. Deng has played well when he’s been given minutes, but Bates-Diop looks to be in the Wolves longterm plans. The team likes him so much that they considered taking him with the 20th pick, where they ended up taking Josh Okogie instead.
It was a win-win situation where they were able to get two players they wanted in the first round. When he’s played consistently in college and in Iowa, Bates-Diop has played extremely well. He deserves more minutes and it would not come as a shock if he does get more playing time if players continue to miss games or the team makes some moves at the February trade deadline.