On Thursday night, Keita Bates-Diop is expected to hear his name called sometime during the first round of the NBA Draft. Bates-Diop, a member of Chris Holtmann’s inaugural team at Ohio State, was the catalyst to the Buckeyes getting back to the NCAA Tournament in 2018.
During his redshirt junior campaign of 2017-18, Bates-Diop shined. He was named Big Ten Player of the Week four times, National Player of the Week by the USBWA once, and was also one of 10 finalists for the Naismith Trophy.
Those accolades came with good reason. Throughout the course of the season, KBD had a double-double on 13 different occasions. On the road against Purdue and Indiana, he pulled down rebounds and put up points to cross the double-double plateau. And in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament, Bates-Diop dropped 24 points on 12 boards against South Dakota State en route to an OSU win.
Against No. 1 Michigan State back on Jan. 7, KBD pulled together a 32-point outing, and put the Big Ten on notice that, yes, the Buckeyes were back. Without the Normal, Ill., prospect on last year’s team, the Buckeyes would’ve floundered.
Expectations weren’t high for Ohio State last season. A new coach combined with an exodus of talent via transfers created a bleak outlook for the Buckeyes: the cellar of the Big Ten.
But, that didn’t happen—and it’s thanks to the work of KBD.
While he isn’t projected to be a No. 1 pick, Bates-Diop has the intangibles to become a star at the professional level.
KBD is 6-foot-7, and can do a little bit of everything well. He can work inside for a rebound and a putback; he can also pull-up a shot from three-point range if he needed to. Last season against Maryland, he went 6-of-8 from beyond the arc. As a total in 2017-18, Bates-Diop buried 66-of-184 three-pointers (35.9 percent).
Since Golden State started the new trend of an aerial assault from downtown, the “big man” can’t just be a rebound machine. The new-age forward has to get rebounds, be able to guard the perimeter and be able to launch shots from the perimeter, too. Bates-Diop has a little experience doing all those things, and will only build off that experience.
DraftExpress did a scouting report on KBD, and they hit the nail on the head in regards to his ability to play defense:
When Bates-Diop is fully engaged, he shows the ability to be a real stopper defensively, and has the quickness, perimeter mobility, and length to defend multiple positions, something which you can’t have enough of in today’s NBA.
If Bates-Diop has to go up and guard against a Stephen Curry or Jayson Tatum, he probably could do it. If KBD has to go down in the post and contest shots, I’m willing to believe that he’ll find ways to make blocks and/or stops.
On top of taking OSU to the tourney, Bates-Diop was Big Ten Player of the Year and First-Team All-Big Ten. The conference was no joke this season, as Michigan ended up in the Final Four, and Purdue made a decent run in March. KBD put together a show in an elite conference, and I believe he’ll be able to do the same (with some decent coaching) in the NBA.
In the final handful of games last season, Bates-Diop looked tired. That could’ve been for a number of different reasons—ranging from the condensed conference schedule, to having to be on the court for over 30 minutes for most of the games. However, there’s no denying that late-season KBD looked a lot different from the KBD that put on a clinic against Michigan State.
On top of the tiredness, there was also an inconsistency to Bates-Diop’s ability to score. At its worst, KBD was held to just six points against...Rutgers. In the tournament game against South Dakota State, Bates-Diop scored a respectable 24 points, however, it came off a 7-of-19 display from the field. On the defensive end, teams were able to crash the glass and get better looks around the floor against the Buckeyes.
It may be easier to suggest that as the season wore on, the Buckeyes as a whole just got tired. There’s probably some truth to that. But there’s also, I believe, some truth in that teams began focusing on Ohio State more as the season progressed. Remember, the Buckeyes weren’t a team on anybody’s radar. During the non-conference slate of games, Gonzaga, Clemson and North Carolina scored victories over the Buckeyes. However, once the Big Ten games heated up, OSU went on a run of nine-straight wins. Teams began adapting to KBD and the Buckeyes, and that’s when the cracks started to show on the armor.
His NBA.com draft combine analysis speaks a little about his inconsistencies on defense
Made an impact protecting the rim, rebounding out of his area, and guarding multiple positions when he was dialed in last season. Sense of urgency comes and goes, but tools shine in spurts.
Doing well in spurts may make KBD an excellent role player or sixth man. But with more conditioning and practice, Bates-Diop can get to a starting role.