3. Evolution of the rookies
Josh Okogie went from a part-time player earlier in the year to a full-time starter. There were a variety of circumstances that led to where his rookie campaign stands at this point in time, but Robert Covington‘s New Year’s Eve injury pushed Okogie into the starting lineup for good.
A quick glance at Okogie’s game log for gives a pretty good idea for just how up-and-down his production has been throughout his rookie season.
He’s always provided solid defense and contagious energy, but his offense has been inconsistent to say the least. And as much as it feels as though he’s been better playing at Target Center than on the road, the numbers don’t actually bear that out. (Yes, his plus-minus is much better at home, but that’s also simply a reflection of how much better the Wolves as a team have played in Minneapolis.)
If nothing else, Okogie has a future as a key wing reserve in the NBA, locking down opposing wings defensively and contributing boundless energy on offense. His shooting line of .371/.268/.731 will need to improve, of course, but there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to work on his shot, as well as his ball-handling, which is quite shoddy at times.
At some point in the next few weeks, Robert Covington will return, and Okogie will return to the bench. He’ll need to continue to supply much-needed energy in his stints of playing time, and any progress with his shot would bode well for his sophomore season.
Keita Bates-Diop, on the other hand, had not played in a meaningful game at the NBA level until Friday’s win in New York. He played 13 minutes, putting up three points, two rebounds, one steal, one block, and one assist. He finished with a plus-minus of +16 on the night.
The following evening, Bates-Diop contributed eight points and six rebounds in an encouraging 15-minute stint in a loss at Milwaukee.
Bates-Diop’s length is clearly NBA-level, and it appears as though his athleticism will play as well. He’ll need to add strength to help him guard NBA 4s, and he’ll need to prove that he can do more than score in transition and shoot an average percentage on open 3-pointers, too.
But all that said, the early returns on Bates-Diop are exciting for a second-round pick, and he’ll no doubt see some more run in March and April, and especially if the Wolves fall out of playoff contention.