After leading the Ohio State Buckeyes to a second-place conference finish, and NCAA Tournament appearance, forward Keita Bates-Diop finally heard his name called at the 2018 NBA Draft. The Normal, Ill., product went No. 48 overall to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
There are plenty of reasons to be excited for KBD’s drafting into the association. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
It’s a stacked team in Minneapolis
While the T’Wolves made the postseason last year, they made it by the skin of their teeth as the No. 8-seed. Then, they ran into a very hot Houston Rockets squad and were dispatched in five games. But don’t let that result fool you: the squad Tom Thibodeau has in Minneapolis can win games.
Talent is in abundance for Minnesota. Jeff Teague and Jimmy Butler will be the scoring duo, and if Gorgui Dieng picks up production, those three will be the main figures in Minneapolis until at least 2020.
With Bates-Diop in the fold, he would be a good off-the-bench playmaker right now. Taj Gibson and Nemanja Bjelica appear to be the main forwards right now, meaning the T’Wolves will have to trade Andrew Wiggins or even Karl Anthony-Towns. If either Wiggins or KAT is delivered a one-way ticket out of Minny, the team still has talent. A potential trading of Anthony-Towns would hurt more than Wiggins, but there’s at least a solid nucleus to what Thibodeau has to build around.
Sliding to No. 48 will hurt KBD and his short-term earnings, but if he can keep a spot on the Timberwolves, he has the chance to develop under a proven coach in Thibs. As an assistant coach under Doc Rivers during the Boston Celtics “Big Three” era, Thibodeau helped bring a title to Beantown. While head coach of the Chicago Bulls, Thibodeau had the Bulls in contention to win the Eastern Conference. While adaption is needed to fit a Thibodeau system, KBD showed that he can transition into different coaching styles and circumstances while at Ohio State.
He has a solid foundation
Bates-Diop saw action in 30-plus games in three of the four seasons he was in Columbus. The only year he didn’t see the court for 30 games was in 2016-17; that year he was sidelined for 18 games with a stress fracture in his left leg. All of that game time built a solid foundation for KBD to become a star playmaker in Ohio State’s tournament run last season.
DraftExpress reports that Bates-Diop has a wingspan of 7-foot-4. That’s a pretty good thing to have in your arsenal—and it’s something that you either have or you don’t. Whether he needs to work down in the low post for rebounds and buckets, or find the open mid-range jumper, Bates-Diop uses that wingspan to make plays.
By the time KBD’s Buckeye career finished, he compiled 19 double-doubles—and in 18 of those games, Ohio State walked away victorious. The nucleus of OSU’s offense and defense last season, Bates-Diop had breakout performances in big-time games. Against then-No. 1 Michigan State, the forward collected 32 points and seven rebounds in a win. In the regular season finale against Indiana, KBD reached a double-double with 24 points and 14 rebounds in a double overtime win for the Bucks.
By being the leader on the court, Bates-Diop has put himself in a plethora of situations against some of the top teams in college basketball. Having sound fundamentals is something that is valued in the NBA. KBD has them, and it won’t be surprising when he succeeds.
The intangibles, he has
When Bates-Diop was on the floor last season, things just seemed to click when he was on a roll. The team played as a cohesive unit, and because of that, the Buckeyes ended the season with an impressive 25-9 record.
Going back to his sophomore year, the Normal, Ill., native was averaging 11.8 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game in the penultimate season with Thad Matta as head coach. But in 2017-18, in Chris Holtmann’s first season in Columbus, those numbers took a huge tick upward as he was averaging 19.8 points and 8.7 boards per contest.
When the mass exodus occurred during Matta’s final season (i.e. the departures of Austin Grandstaff, AJ Harris, Daniel Giddens, and Mickey Mitchell), KBD stayed on the team. No matter who was on the sideline—either as a coach or a teammate—there was a consistency: Bates-Diop came ready to play.
He’s open to challenges, and as his record shows, he tends to pass them with flying colors. Bates-Diop is the reigning Big Ten player of the year, and was selected Second-Team All-America by a number of outlets (AP, USBWA).
KBD has the right stuff to become a star in the NBA. It’s hard to explain, but you’ll know it when you see it.