A look at draft prospect Keita Bates-Diop and his potential fit with the San Antonio Spurs.
With several San Antonio Spurs set to hit the free agent market this offseason, the team may consider drafting Keita Bates-Diop, the All-American from Ohio State, with the 18th pick in the NBA Draft to help fill those potential needs.
The former Buckeye played four years of college ball, taking a medical redshirt during his junior season due to a stress fracture in his leg. Bates-Diop is projected to be one of the oldest players, if not the oldest player, taken in the first round of the draft this year.
While four-year players are typically stigmatized by scouts and front offices, Bates-Diop possesses a level of maturity and confidence in his game that other young prospects often lack when making the jump to the next level. Plus, the Spurs have never shied away from taking older players (ex: Derrick White, the Spurs’ first round draft pick a summer ago).
Bates-Diop’s career at Ohio State started off underwhelming. However, after returning from his leg injury, he set the Big 10 Conference on fire during his junior year, averaging 19.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game while shooting an efficient 48 percent from the field. Bates-Diop was also a capable three-point shooter, connecting on 35.9 percent of his attempts from long distance. His dominant performance throughout the season earned him Big 10 Player of the Year honors, as well as Wooden Award and Naismith Award considerations.
At 6’8”, Bates-Diop is a bit of an enigma when it comes to a true position. He’s slightly undersized as a power forward, but his 7’ 3.25” wingspan, the longest of all backcourt players at the NBA Combine, projects him as being a prototypical 3-and-D kind of player in the NBA. Because of his size and versatility, Bates-Diop’s game translates very nicely to the Spurs’ system, which is rooted in their defense.
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Last season the Spurs were one of the best defensive teams in the league, despite two-time Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard only playing in nine games. The Spurs ranked 8th in the league in Opponent Field Goal Percentage, 4th in Opponent 3-Point Field Goal Percentage and were tied with the Utah Jazz for allowing the least amount of points during the season. The team already has several defensive studs in Leonard, Danny Green, Dejounte Murray and Kyle Anderson who can all guard multiple positions and Bates-Diop’s length could help contribute to that pesky quartet.
While Bates-Diop will probably have to earn his keep playing in league with his defense at first, he’s no slouch on offense; he’s a proven scorer who can attack the opposition in a variety of ways. Bates-Diop adopted an “outside-in” style of play at Ohio State. He loves to set up behind the three-point line, where he’s proficient at knocking down the trifecta, but he also has the ball-handling abilities to drive from beyond the arc and the strength to finish through contact in the paint.
Further, the Ohio State product is also a gifted operator in the mid-range. He’s not afraid of posting up defenders and has the ability to get to the basket from either side of the floor with relative ease. All in all, Bates-Diop is a fundamentally sound offensive talent who possesses the requisite skill set to develop into a reliable two-way player who can guard across multiple positions.
Although Bates-Diop does not have the glitz or glam other prospects do, he should be in play for the 18th pick by the Spurs. Given his maturity, defensive upside and offensive repertoire, Bates-Diop will be hard for the Spurs to pass up on if he’s available.