Future Watch – Keita Bates-Diop Rookie Basketball Cards, Timberwolves – Keita Bates-Diop was born in 1996 in Sacramento, California to parents, Richard and Wilma Bates. Richard Bates studied Cheikh Anta Diop, a scientist and anthropologist, and added Diop to his son’s surname as a tribute. Keita would addend University High School in Norman, Illinois as a prep. He averaged 18.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game as a junior. Heading into college, Bates-Diop was ranked as the 24th overall recruit nationally. He would elect to attend the Ohio State University.
Keita Bates-Diop stayed at Ohio State for four years. In his freshman season, he was a bench player averaging 9.9 minutes per game. He came alive as a sophomore, starting and playing in all 33 games for the Buckeyes. He averaged 31.5 minutes, 11.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game that season. In his junior year, he suffered a stress fracture in his left leg. The NCAA granted him a medical redshirt and he returned as a redshirt junior in 2017-18.
Bates-Diop’s final year for the Buckeyes caught the eyes of many NBA scouts. He started and played in 34 games. He would set career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. In a regular season win against top ranked Michigan State, he scored a career high 32 points. Bates-Diop would earn multiple Big-10 Player of the Week honors in 2017-18. At the end of the regular season, he was named 2018 Big Ten Player of the Year. Following Ohio State’s loss in the NCAA Tournament, Bates-Diop announced his intention to leave the Buckeyes for the 2018 NBA Draft.
At the NBA Draft Combine, Bates-Diop measured 6’8.5” in shoes with a 7’3.25” wingspan. He’s listed as a small forward, but he can play both frontcourt positions in small-ball lineups. He isn’t the type of player with a strong unique skill that pops out when you see him play. Bates-Diop is the type of player who does all the little things to make an impact on the game. He can excel in high and low usage situations.
The knock on him heading into the draft was his age. At 22 years old, had he already hit his peak? On draft night, evaluators had Bates-Diop going anywhere from the late first round to the second round. He would ultimately fall to the 48th overall pick and the Timberwolves scooped him up.
At the time of the draft, the Timberwolves had a much different roster and goals for the season. In June, they were looking to add wing players to the end of their bench. The starting lineup was set and their goal was a return to the playoffs. However, things changed quickly. Drama with Jimmy Butler led to a trade, and shortly after the team’s czar Tom Thibodeau was fired.
While the team still had a shot at the playoffs, looking towards the future became more important. Under Ryan Saunders, the team has adopted modern concepts and deeper lineup rotations that were shunned under Thibodeau’s antiquated system. This has allowed Bates-Diop to see the floor in the final third of the season.
In March, Bates-Diop has played in all five games for the Timberwolves. He’s started in three games and is averaging 25.2 minutes. The starts came as a result of Andrew Wiggins sitting out with a minor injury. Bates-Diop’s best game so far came in a win against the Knicks on March 10th. He played 35 minutes and scored 18 points with six boards, an assist, two blocks and two steals.
While the Timberwolves are still technically alive in the Western Conference playoff race, there is a very small chance they make it. Their schedule is one of the toughest down the stretch. Developing their roster for next season should be the goal. Keita Bates-Diop should see consistent minutes down the stretch. He’s the type of player who can contribute no matter what he is asked to do on the floor. Looking forward to next season, the Timberwolves need a player like Bates-Diop on their roster. He’s a cost-controlled versatile asset on a team up against the luxury tax. Even if his role is ultimately a sixth-man/bench player, his presence will be felt on the court.
As the season draws to a close, Timberwolves fans and collectors should see lot of reasons to get Keita Bates-Diop’s rookie cards into their collections. If the Wolves can put together some wins against top Western Conference teams, he could draw eyes from the rest of the NBA collecting community. Look for cards featuring his Ohio State uniform in 2018 Panini Contenders Draft Picks Collegiate Basketball.
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