The biggest problem the Sixers will need to address this offseason is wing depth. It became painfully obvious the team didn’t have the players necessary at the position to succeed this past year, but that could change with this draft class. Keita Bates-Diop is a player that could be one of the missing pieces for the Sixers next year if he is available when they are up with the 26th pick.
Standing at 6’7”, Keita Bates-Diop is a prototypical small forward in the NBA. After missing all but nine games in his Junior year with a stress fracture in his left leg, he came back strong the following season while becoming a focal point of Ohio State’s offense. This year Bates-Diop became a player who could take over games on both sides of the ball, and it resulted in him being named Big Ten Player of the Year.
Ohio State didn’t have a good year, and in order for them to stay afloat, Keita Bates-Diop needed to be “the guy”. Because of this newfound role he became someone who was not afraid to shoot the ball. Looking back at his last full season, Bates-Diop averaged only 10 shots per game over 33 games. This year, over 34 games, that number jumped to 15.1 shots per game. With the uptick in shots, an uptick in scoring was bound to happen. Scoring 20 points per game at any level is impressive, and it is especially impressive when you can do that as the only true weapon on your team. One problem in his game, following the increased workload, is that when the shots aren’t falling he looks to shoot out of a cold streak, forcing things. But when the shots are falling, he brings a game that translates both inside and out. He uses his long arms (7’3” wingspan) to his advantage on the offensive side, getting shots off outside and also driving the lane.
Besides scoring, Bates-Diop has shown a knack for hanging around down low and grabbing rebounds as a small forward. The long arms go to work again and he is able to use his length to grab boards, something that should still happen at the next level. Other than these two points on offense, Bates-Diop doesn’t bring a ton else. He’s not much of a creator, and while he can control the ball and has a decent enough handle, he’s better suited without the ball in his hands, fighting to get open for shots. The offense isn’t polished and needs some work, but the numbers show that he can score the ball. In smaller sample sizes where he isn’t the center of a defense’s attention, Bates-Diop could use his tremendous size to have a nice effect on the offensive side of the ball.
From what I’ve seen out of Keita Bates-Diop on the defensive end, he knows exactly how to use his body to his advantage. At the college level you see many defenders try to play too physically but that is not the case here. There is a difference between being soft and allowing players to pass you, and Bates-Diop can still stop a scorer even when behind them. Most defenders try and keep a ball handler in front using force, Bates-Diop gives them open space to get by because he knows he can still be in the drivers seat because of his length. Many of the shots he ended up blocking came from behind when a scorer thought they had beat a defender to the rim. Bates-Diop plays until the final whistle, which will make him a solid defender as he grows more into his body and learns the NBA game.
In college he was an average defender, but he has shown that he makes the right decisions. Couple that with the fact that he is still growing into his body and he could eventually become a plus defender.
Right now Keita Bates-Diop fits into the role of slasher off of the bench for the Sixers. He will give you more versatility in defending different positions as well as rebounding potential than another small forward in Justin Anderson, and his shot has potential to it. I don’t know if Bates-Diop will ever become a consistent starter, but I think if you can draft him at 26th overall you could do much worse than getting a reliable bench player.
We will not get to see Keita Bates-Diop in a Sixers uniform next year. I believe the upside is too high for him to be available at 26th overall, which is why I have him being drafted at 18th overall by the San Antonio Spurs. Given all of the drama surrounding Kawhi Leonard, it could work out that Bates-Diop ends up being his eventual replacement at small forward. If Bates-Diop does end up being available for the Sixers it could be a slam dunk pick at a position of need. The Sixers need to have an effective pick late in the first round, especially if something crazy happens at the top of the draft that leads to the Sixers not picking a wing with the 10th pick or not picking at all.