The Trail Blazers offseason is upon us, and the 2018 NBA Draft will provide Portland with an opportunity to supplement its roster with a talented youngster. With only the No. 24 pick at their disposal on draft night, the Blazers will be looking to thread the needle by finding a NBA-worthy prospect in the latter stages of the first round. Today we will be looking at versatile Ohio State forward Keita Bates-Diop.
- Height: 6’7”
- Weight: 235
- Wingspan: 7’3”
- Shoots: Right
- Position: SF/PF
- Age: 22
- Projected draft range: 17-37
- PPG: 19.8 | Per 40: 23.9
- RPG: 8.7 | Per 40: 10.5
- BLK: 1.6 | Per 40: 2.0
- STL: 0.9 | Per 40: 1.1
- FG%: 48
- 3P%: 35.9
After returning from an injury-shortened 2016-17 season, Bates-Diop proved he has the ability to carry a successful college offense on his shoulders. The 22-year-old forward possesses an underrated post game that complements his ability to hit shots from outside the paint. Offensive skill aside, Bates-Diop’s versatility drives his success on both ends of the court. Thanks to his rangy frame, the Illinois native is capable of creating and stifling matchup nightmares. On defense, he has the physical tools and instincts to become a pick-and-roll stopper. Even if other parts of his game don’t develop as planned, his superb rebounding ability shouldn’t be an issue while transitioning to the NBA.
Versatility in college and versatility in the NBA are two different things. While his length and mobility will still be a positive at the next level, it won’t nearly be as effective when facing professional players on a nightly basis. Bates-Diop might be a step too slow to guard top-shelf small forwards, and he will need to develop quickly to hold his own against traditional post players. Outside of the questions raised by his physical traits, Bates-Diop must become a more reliable shooter. Despite making strides with his shot from distance, he still shot well below 40 percent from the college three-point line. It is unlikely that Bates-Diop will enjoy a 29.4 percent usage rate in the NBA, so he must prove he can be efficient in a limited role. Along with the need to prove he can be effective in a reduced role, he must also tighten his handles, or he will struggle to create his own offense. At 22 years old he might face questions regarding his ceiling, and his injury-shortened 2016-17 season (stress fracture in his left leg) will also raise red flags.
Bates-Diop bounced back from a brief nine-game 2016-17 season to capture Big Ten Player of the Year honors in 2017-18. Thanks to his conference-leading 19.8 points per game, Ohio State amassed an impressive 25-9 record on the year. Bates-Diop’s most impressive performance came in a 32-point outburst against a Michigan State team that was loaded with future NBA talent. After getting past South Dakota State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Ohio State exited postseason play with a loss against Gonzaga.
Two major questions face Bates-Diop as he transitions to the NBA. First, he must prove he can still be a positive force on offense with fewer opportunities. Second, he has to parlay his college-level versatility into the ability to guard multiple positions as a professional. If he can do both of those things, he could blossom into an ideal frontcourt player. Even if those two things don’t come to fruition, Bates-Diop should still be able to find a way to be effective in the NBA. His defensive upside as a shot blocker and rebounder in the paint could negate his potential liabilities on the offensive end.
With Al-Farouq Aminu’s contract uncertainty looming after the 2018-19 season, the Blazers could get an early start on developing his replacement by selecting Bates-Diop with the No. 24 pick. If he reaches his potential, he could easily be paired with the paint-centric Jusuf Nurkic. If the future of Portland’s post game relies on Zach Collins, Bates-Diop could complete a duo that possesses the tools to be an absolute nightmare for teams that rely on the pick-and-roll. Unless he is able to prove he can consistently knock down open jumpers from beyond the arc, the former Buckeye will do very little to assist in Portland’s ability to stretch the floor.
Do you want to see Bates-Diop in a Trail Blazers jersey next season? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.
—Steve / @SteveDHoops / BEdgeSteve@gmail.com