Ohio State Basketball: Keita Bates-Diop could be a steal in the NBA draft

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 20: Keita Bates-Diop
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 20: Keita Bates-Diop /

Keita Bates-Diop had a terrific season leading the Ohio State basketball team to the NCAA tournament, so I’m a little surprised at his draft projections.

It came as no surprise when Keita Bates-Diop announced he was going to enter the NBA draft about a week ago. After all, his outstanding season helped turn the Ohio State basketball program around and earned him the Big Ten Player of the Year honor.

However, after averaging 19.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists Bates-Diop is only projected to be a late first round pick in most of the mock drafts I have found. A couple even have him being chosen in the second round.

To show how the projections in mock drafts can vary, here are three as reported by Ryan Rosko of Factory of Sadness:

  • Basketball Insiders:  Portland Trail Blazers  (26)
  • NBADraft.net:  New York Knicks  (43)
  • CBS Sports’ Reid Forgrave;  Utah Jazz (21)

The Jazz pick is the highest I have seen.

If the “draft experts” are correct, Bates-Diop could be one of the steals of the draft, especially if he falls to an established team. KBD could be used off the bench to utilize his particular skills while he improves the other areas of his game.

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That worked well for Kawhi Leonard didn’t it, and he and KBD are similar in a couple of ways. Each are 6-7 small forwards, Leonard weighing 227 pounds when he left college and Bates-Diop weighs 235. Leonard’s draft profile at nbadraft.net and Bates-Diop’s at NBA Scouting Live certainly pointed out flaws in their games.

Fortunately for Leonard he was drafted with the 15th pick by Indiana and then traded to San Antonio. On a loaded Spurs team he was allowed to be a role player in the beginning as he only averaged 7.9 points per game his rookie season. Leonard’s scoring output rose each of the next five years until it reached 25.5 ppg in the 2016-17 season.

I’m not saying KBD will be another Kawhi Leonard, but you never can tell. Leonard’s stats his sophomore season, his last at San Diego State, were 15.5 points, 2.5 assists and 10.6 rebounds per game. That didn’t exactly indicate he would star in the NBA.

While I agree with some of the criticism of Bates-Diop’s game, I think some of it is overblown. My impressions watching him this season is that he has a nice overall game, a great attitude and is a team first guy.

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I think those attributes will translate nicely to the NBA. So if he does fall to the late first round or the second, someone is getting a steal in this year’s NBA draft.