Making The Case For And Against Keita Bates-Diop As A First-Round Draft Pick

By James Grega on May 16, 2018 at 10:10 am
Keita Bates-Diop

The NBA Draft Lottery is complete, and the NBA Draft Combine gets underway Wednesday in Chicago, where Keita Bates-Diop will look to improve his draft stock. 

The former Buckeye forward is projected as a late first- to early second-round pick in June's draft, but with a solid performance this week in the Windy City, he could perhaps solidify himself as a first-rounder. His chances as becoming a lottery pick are slim to none, but as a first-rounder, his chances of making the final roster somewhere are much higher. 

As the combine gets underway today, we make the case for and against Bates-Diop as a first-rounder, while also discussing where he needs to shine during the combine. 

The Case Against KBD

Bates-Diop is one of the more intriguing prospects in this year's draft for a multitude of reasons. 

For starters, he is one of the oldest players in the draft as a 22-year-old redshirt junior out of Ohio State. After missing the majority of the 2016-17 campaign with an injury, he exploded last season, winning Big Ten Player of the Year honors and leading the Buckeyes back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since his freshman season. 

Bates-Diop's skill set is unique, but in a way that could very well hurt his draft stock. He has the body of an NBA small forward (6-foot-7, 235), but played more like a stretch power forward at Ohio State. His ball-handling skills are below-average for the NBA level, as he struggles to create separation off the dribble. 

In addition, Bates-Diop's motor came into question during his final season at Ohio State. His desire to win and play well wasn't the issue, but the physical demand of the game took an obvious toll on him during Big Ten play. While he won't be asked to carry a team in the NBA like he was in college, an 82-game schedule is much more demanding than the 34-game stretch Ohio State played last season. 

Finally, Bates-Diop's physical strength is a concern heading into the draft. If he is going to play minutes at the power forward spot at the next level, he will have to get much stronger physically. He struggled mightily when teams in the Big Ten played him close to the vest and bodied him up on the offensive end. He will need to get used to that at the next level, where forwards are much bigger and athletic. 

If Bates-Diop doesn't at least answer some of these questions at the combine, he could be looking at a second-round selection and have to fight to make an NBA roster in 2018-19. 

The Case For KBD

In a day and age where the game of basketball is being played on the perimeter, Bates-Diop's skill set seems to fit right in. 

At 6-foot-7, Bates-Diop has the ability to shoot over most defenders, and score from behind the three-point line. He shot 35.9 percent from behind the arc last season and was also consistent from the charity stripe, knocking down 79.4 percent of his free throw attempts. 

Not only can Bates-Diop stretch the floor as a shooter and occasionally get to the line when needed, he also has a unique ability to score in the mid-range, an art that seems to be lost on his generation. His accuracy with his mid-range jumper was lethal for the Buckeyes last season, and became his go-to shot when he needed to get himself going offensively. His height and long wingspan also makes him an above-average rebounder for his position.

Bates-Diop is limited offensively to which positions he can play. However, his length makes him an asset on the defensive side of the ball, as he can guard multiple positions on the floor, a critical skill to have in today's NBA. Bates-Diop can easily switch ball-screens and defend at least three positions on the floor. That number could possibly increase to four of even five depending on the lineup deployed by the opposing team. 

The former Buckeye also isn't afraid of the big stage. He scored what was then a career-high 32 points in an upset win over No. 1 Michigan State on Jan. 7, and poured in 28 in the final game of his Ohio State career, a 90-84 loss to Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Lastly, with Bates-Diop, you are getting a player that you don't have to worry about off the floor and will be a positive influence on any NBA locker room. Bates-Diop is as unselfish of a player as there is in this draft and will do whatever is asked of him. 

All things considered, Bates-Diop's ceiling isn't all that high, but he has the ability to be a solid pro in the NBA if he stays healthy and develops his ball-handling skills a bit more. He is worthy of a first-round pick, but his performance at the combine will be critical.

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