Minnesota Timberwolves: Sizing up Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JUNE 26: Keita Bates-Diop #33 and Josh Okogie #20 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JUNE 26: Keita Bates-Diop #33 and Josh Okogie #20 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Coming off Josh Okogie’s Rising Stars Game appearance and his pre-All-Star showcase against Houston, now seems like as good a time as any to look at the production and future values of both Wolves rookies.

Minnesota Timberwolves rookie wing Josh Okogie was somewhat of a surprise first-round draft pick.

Picked by the Wolves at the 20th spot, the Nigerian-born rookie has exceeded expectations, namely by living up to defensive promise and showing great athleticism when needed.

While the rookie’s counting stats are nothing to write home about, Okogie seems to thrive best when the lights are bright. Scoring 13 points in 19 minutes of the Rising Stars Game, is one example, as well as overshadowing James Harden’s scoring streak with shutdown defense during a nationally televised game on ESPN just prior to the All-Star break.

His highlights for the season come from rivaling the NBA’s biggest names. Whether it be posterizing Rudy Gobert, swatting a Lonzo Ball layup off the court, or blocking a Harden step-back 3-pointer during what is likely his best quarter of the season, Okogie seems to play best when his competition is as tough as it gets.

Okogie’s most galvanizing play has come versus teams such as the Pacers (12 points and three steals), the Raptors (10 points and 11 rebounds), and, of course, the Rockets with 16 points, four assists, and one key block.

As previously mentioned, his stats on whole are less impressive but par-for-the-course for a rookie of his rank. He’s seventh among rookies in steals, two behind De’Anthony Melton with 48, and 15th in points per game with 7.6.

As of now, prognosticating Okogie’s future is as uncertain as predicting which team Anthony Davis will land with next season. His talent and potential value has the capability of putting him in All-Star Games, but this dream will remain only a dream unless his shooting greatly improves.

As a shooting guard, his 26 percent shooting clip from deep will need improvement to be taken seriously as a starter. And his total field goal percentage is among the lowest on the team at just 36.4 percent. If coaching can bullishly work on the 20-year-old’s shooting skills, the sky is the limit for the thrilling playmaker.

Prior to Friday’s win in New York, Keita Bates-Diop had seen action in only six games this year. In those six games, he’s shot 11 field goal attempts, making three. Five of those 11 attempts being from beyond the arc, and none of the made attempts coming from the land of three, although he did make his first NBA 3-pointer from the corner on Friday at Madison Square Garden.

While his NBA stats are as underwhelming as they are negligible, his G League and Summer League stats offer a more complete picture of his talent. In Iowa, Keita has scored at an average of 17.8 while shooting 44.4 percent from the floor.

Also, this:

Since his return from the G League over a month ago, he’d only played 16 minutes before nearly doubling that total with 13 minutes on Friday in New York.

The next month will be crucial in deciding the team’s playoff fate. If hopes dim, a silver lining will be more playing opportunities for the 23-year-old rookie from Ohio State. There’s certainly a case to be made for Bates-Diop receiving more playing time down the stretch of the season, although it would be tough to see him slotting into the rotation once everyone is healthy.

dark. Next. Checking in on the Iowa Wolves

At any rate, the Wolves certainly appear to have gotten a steal in Bates-Diop as a second-round draft pick.