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2018-19 Was A Learning Season For Keita Bates-Diop

by Timberwolves.com

As we recap the 2018-19 Timberwolves season, our Kyle Ratke and Julian Andrews will be taking a look at each player on the roster and how we'll remember their season. We continue with rookie forward Keita Bates-Diop.

KR: When Keita Bates-Diop fell to 48th in the 2019 NBA Draft, he was considered the steal of the draft by pretty much everyone. This was the reigning Big 10 Player of the Year and was expected to be a first-round pick.

Bates-Diop probably fell because he was 22 and there were questions about his upside. I think a lot of times, we look too much at what a player will be able to do rather than what a player can do.

KBD proved in his first season that he’s a player who is in the right spots on both ends of the court and has a great feel for the game. 

His best two games came on back-to-back nights at Target Center. He scored 12 points to go with five rebounds, two assists and a steal in a March 9 win over the Wizards. The next night in a win over the Knicks, he finished with 18 points, six rebounds, two blocks, two steals and an assist.

Bates-Diop only played in 30 games, but he was an absolute professional in his first season, learning from veterans like Luol Deng to stay ready. You never know when, or how often, an opportunity will present itself. That’s half the battle in the NBA.

Like other young Timberwolves in 2018-19, Bates-Diop might not be a star in this league. But he can star in his role, something coach Ryan Saunders preached down the stretch last season.

If Bates-Diop can develop his 3-point shot (he shot just 25 percent last season, but 35.9 percent in his senior season at Ohio State), he’ll increase his value immensely. He’s a 6’9 forward who could see some time as a small ball five. The direction the NBA is trending, the more value Bates-Diop should have in it. 

JA: For players taken in the second round of the NBA draft, the first mission is to make the team and earn minutes. Nothing is certain for these prospects. What makes some stand out, other than their talent level, is their approach to this difficult challenge. It is in this way that Bates-Diop stood out this season.  

We didn’t get to see much of Bates-Diop on the court, but every time he saw the floor his improvement was evident. What else can you ask of a rookie? 

Bates-Diop has the physical profile to be an elite NBA defender and he demonstrated his potential, putting together 20 games over the course of the season with either a block or a steal and eight with at least two combined blocks and steals.  

The now-sophomore player is in a good position to grow with Robert Covington and fellow 2018 draftee Josh Okogie also on the roster. The three of them could form a formidable defensive tandem.  

On offense, Bates-Diop is most advanced as a cutter where he uses his length and surprising quickness to beat defenders and create easy opportunities at the rim. He needs to improve as a long-range shooter. If Bates-Diop can tighten up his jumper he could become a good pull-up player as well, using his height and length to shoot over smaller defenders. 

While Bates-Diop’s age was probably the primary reason he fell in the draft, his maturity came in handy during his rookie season. That will continue to be the case as he learns how to fill a valuable role on this team. Bates-Diop made a lot of friends last season with his approach to working on his game and his consistent improvement. He should be ready to follow up that work nicely in 2019.  

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