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Timberwolves Rookie Keita Bates-Diop Can Ball

by Kyle Ratke, Digital Content Manager

Digital Content Manager

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After Keita Bates-Diop was drafted 48th overall in the 2018 NBA Draft, he was immediately the favorite for “steal of the draft.”

I mean, this guy was projected to be a first-round pick in almost every mock draft. Ours included.

It took a while for KBD to get playing time, but the former Big Ten Player of the Year stayed patient and it’s paid off. 

The main man Julian Andrews will have a more in-depth piece later this week, so I’m not trying to steal his thunder here. But KBD needs some love.

He’s started the last two games for Andrew Wiggins. Both wins. And after playing 130 combined minutes prior to Saturday’s game, KBD has played in more than 70 in the last two games.

On Saturday night, he finished with 12 points, five rebounds, two steals and an assist. Solid numbers and we discussed his game here. 

But Sunday night’s game against the Knicks is probably when you said to yourself, “Man, this guy has a future in this basketball thing!” Bates-Diop finished with 18 points, six rebounds, two blocks, two steals and an assist. He shot 7-for-12 from the field and 2-for-3 from the 3-point line and 2-for-2 from the free-throw line. 

The best thing about Bates-Diop is that he doesn’t demand the ball. He makes the right basketball play. If the shot is there, great. If not, he moves on. His game revolves around ball movement and moving without the ball. In today’s NBA, that’s a rarity.  

“The thing that you have to like about Keita is that he’s a low usage player,” Timberwolves interim head coach Ryan Saunders said after the game. “And at that small forward position, there’s a number of obviously stars at that small forward position, but there’s a lot of really good teams who do have low usage guys in that role that are active cutters, good defenders, they can make an open three… things like that. Seeing him start to fill that kind of role for us I think is something to be excited for.”

Defensively, he’s so long that he sneaks up on offensive players and can swat shots at the last second. He might not be the quickest, but with his length, he can make up for it because that’s how space works.

We aren’t sure how long Wiggins will be out for, but regardless, Bates-Diop has proven he deserves a spot in this rotation. 

Entering the draft, the knock on Bates-Diop was at age 22 (he turned 23 in January) was that his ceiling wasn’t as high as other players.

If this is his ceiling, sign me up. 

We’re likely just scratching the surface with Bates-Diop. He’s ready to raise the roof. Although in interviews, it’s hard to tell if he just had a really good game or forgot his phone charger on a long road trip. 

Mid-March is a weird spot for NBA fans. The Wolves are 32-35, 10th in the West and six games back from the eighth seed with 15 games remaining. FiveThirtyEight gives the Wolves less than a one-percent chance to make the playoffs. 

But guys like Bates-Diop should give you all the reason to watch this team. Not only for what he’s doing right now, but what he could be for this team as a future piece