In advance of the 2018 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops will be breaking down prospects, both from the college ranks and internationally, with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks will be evaluating in the coming days. More than 50 prospects will be profiled in this space and, in the end, the goal is to inform Hawks fans prior to June 21, when the Hawks are scheduled to make four selections with the first 34 picks.
Today’s installment features Ohio State forward Keita Bates-Diop.
After four years of college basketball at Ohio State, including one medical red-shirt season, Keita Bates-Diop enters the 2018 NBA draft as perhaps the oldest prospect with the potential to go in the first round. While NBA teams often look for younger players with more upside in first round picks, Bates-Diop brings a versatile game, maturity and a track record of overcoming adversity that could be assets to the team that takes him.
Bates-Diop’s college career got off to a quiet start, as he played less than 10 minutes per game as a freshman. He shot the ball well as a freshman but on a limited volume that resulted in just 3.8 points per game. As a sophomore, his role increased as did his offensive workload. His shooting numbers dropped a bit but he scored 11.8 points per game on 6.1 field goal attempts.
After an injury-shortened third season which resulted in a medical red-shirt, Bates-Diop returned as a junior and put a complete season together. He earned Big Ten Player of the Year Honors while averaging 19.8 points and 8.7 rebounds, shooting 54.7 percent from the field and converting 35.9 percent from the three point line.
At 6’8, Bates-Diop projects as a slightly under-sized power forward whose 7’3 wingspan will allow him to guard bigger players while also being capable of defending on the wing. Many versatile players in this draft are smaller players who could play up to the wing on the defensive end. Bates-Diop’s ability to defend bigs and play down to the wing makes him a bit of a rare commodity in this draft.
Bates-Diop does not necessarily project as an explosive offensive player at the NBA level. But, he is a skilled player that should be very capable on the offensive end. He is likely better suited in a role where he uses his defensive versatility while being a fourth, or even fifth, option on the offensive end.
Bates-Diop is not afraid to take on offensive workload. Throughout his college career, his role and numbers increased steadily. How his game translates to the NBA level is the question. At the college level, he was an adequate jump shooter and also showed he can be a secondary ball handler and initiate offense at times.
Perhaps his most translatable offensive skill-set is his mid-range post game. Bates-Diop is very comfortable playing with his back to the basket, even out to 12 to 15 feet. He is comfortable working both right and left and working on both sides of the floor in the mid-post game. The mid-range post game is a bit of a lost art in the college and NBA games these days. Bates-Diop’s ability to score in this layer of the offense could be a real value to the team that selects him.
In evaluating Bates-Diop’s offensive game, NBA teams may do best to think first about role and expectations and second about skill-set. If a team expects him to be a second or third option on the offensive end or to carry a scoring workload, they may be disappointed. But, if they expect him to be a league average shooter as a floor spacer while using his mid-post game when the match-ups are favorable, the expectations could be manageable.
If Bates-Diop is on the floor with three or four strong offensive players, he could consistently draw a weaker defender. In this case, he could play a point forward type of role that initiates offense from the top or even from the wing and mid-post. This is an an offensive role similar to Draymond Green’s role with Golden State. Of course, Green’s primary value is found on defense. But Green’s offensive versatility and ability to work against secondary defenders bring value and Bates-Diop could thrive in this type of offensive role.
On the defensive end, Bates-Diop perhaps has more upside. As mentioned, he has the body to play the four and should have the ability to get out and defend on the wing as well while also being a solid rebounder. Bates-Diop plays with attention to detail defensively, his footwork is consistent and he uses his hands to play and deny the passing lanes.
The fact that he carried a heavy offensive workload while playing consistently on the defensive end at the college level is a very good sign. He should be able to bring value on both ends of the floor at the NBA level.
The one reason teams may shy away from Bates-Diop is that he is not a particularly high-ceiling player. His age indicates that much of his development is behind him. Further, while he is a good athlete with decent speed, agility and explosiveness, his athleticism will not set him apart at the NBA level.
Bates-Diop is expected to go anywhere from the middle of the first round to early in the second round. The lack of a high ceiling would be the very reason he drops, if he does fall to the second round. The Hawks could target him at No. 19, but would be more likely a target at No. 30 or No. 34. If the Hawks take young, high-ceiling players at No. 3 and No. 19, they could potentially find interest Bates-Diop’s mature and versatile game.