As we all know, the San Antonio Spurs brass is notable for player development. This does not only apply to their draft selections, but also to journeymen who have yet to find their footing in the league or those underutilized by other franchises. The likes of Patty Mills, Danny Green and Boris Diaw are just some of the reclamation pieces that Popovich and co. have cultivated over the past years. Today, the Spurs’ next project may already be on the bench. Enter Keita Bates-Diop.
In the past two seasons, the 48th pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2018 NBA draft has consistently found himself at the end of the bench. Even when he was traded to Denver midseason last year, he failed to crack the Nuggets’ rotation. Now, a two-way player for the Spurs, KBD may be a surprising key piece for the team moving forward.
The 6″8, 229-lb tweener out of Ohio State possesses the physical gifts to be an adequate role player in the league. While not necessarily a master at any facet of the game, his athleticism, length, deft (though unorthodox) shot and defensive prowess scream Spurs-ian. With some of the team’s anchors facing an uncertain free agency, there may be room for Keita Bates-Diop to develop on the court next season donning the Silver and Black.
San Antonio Spurs grooming Keita Bates-Diop for a larger role in the NBA
In my midseason player grades, I pointed out that KBD may be more than this season’s Dante Cunningham. This was inspired by the versatile forward’s surprisingly effective play when a bevy of key players were held out due to COVID protocols. He recently turned 25, but if his impressive stretch back then is an indicator of what is to come, then pending free agent Rudy Gay may be even more expendable.
Per Basketball Reference, when Bates-Diop registers more than 10 minutes of court time, he puts up a serviceable 7.3/4.0/1.3 line on 50 percent shooting from the field and the three-point line. That is on top of 1.25 steals and only 0.25 turnovers per contest in the same minute range.
Certainly, what KBD needs is opportunity. And with a lot of players still ahead of him in the rotation, opportunities on the court for him has been understandably stale, more so as a hamstring injury has held him out for the past 15 games.
The relative numbers have been pleasant and so is the eye test. His shooting form may be quite off-putting, but he knocks treys down at a respectable rate.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2021/03/02/0022000541/472/d8dd6b07-9794-d9fb-e015-ae07de04f5fc_1280x720.mp4
He has also shown an uncanny knack for steals and an instinct for disrupting passing lanes. Having a 7″3 wingspan certainly helps but KDB has also shown innate talent for defense, something that will surely help him crack a rotation for any Gregg Popovich coached team.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2021/02/24/0022000495/496/d9a893d0-1bd1-d1ab-3665-caeb386f21b4_1280x720.mp4
The sample size is too small for a resounding answer, but with what Keita Bates-Diop has shown in spurts this season, we can for sure put him on the shortlist for the Spurs’ next reclamation piece, a welcome addition in the organization’s looming pivot towards a full rebuilding phase, however competitive it may seem.
The San Antonio Spurs are as good as anyone in the league at helping players reach their ceilings. If KBD has the talent to play in the NBA, and he clearly does, trust that the Spurs will put him in the right positions to maximize that talent.