By: Jake Paynting
If you follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and you haven't been residing under a boulder for the last few days, you will know that the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop in Thursday night's NBA Draft. Georgia Tech standout Okogie was taken with the 20th pick and Big Ten Player of the Year Bates-Diop with the 48th.
Many members of the Wolves world were thrilled with the selections. Both players can play multiple wing positions -- filling a gaping hole in the roster -- and have the ability to knock down 3-pointers, healing another sore spot from the 2017-18 season. The most important trait that these players need to show won't be fully realized until next season rolls around; are these two exciting prospects ready to contribute to the playoff-chasing Timberwolves right away?
It's tough to determine, but breaking their body of work down into a three-tier list will help decipher what Okogie and Bates-Diop already do well, what they do averagely, and what they need to spend the summer working on, with film. Let's get cracking.
Josh Okogie - 6-foot-4 - G/F - 19-years-old
Skills Tier One - Ready to Roll:
Pushing the ball up the court for easy buckets, that's when Josh Okogie is in his element. He has a steady handle which allows him to push the pace and bury his way into the lane. The All-ACC Third Team member is quite small in stature, which makes it a struggle at times to finish at the rim in half court sets, his speed and strength give him a huge edge in transition, however.
Witnessing Okogie streaming down the court for a strong finish after forcing a live-ball turnover or ripping down a robust rebound will become a nightly occurrence for Timberwolves fans. The fact he led all tested prospects at the Draft Combine in vertical leaping (42 inches) and the three quarter court sprint (3.04 seconds) won't sting the eyeballs either.
Hustle and Rebounding
The other string in Okogie's bow that should automatically translate to the next level is the energy and effort he brings during every second on the court. Despite his slightly underwhelming size, the Georgia Tech product is a bulldog on the boards. He grabbed 6.3 rebounds per outing last season, which was second on the Yellow Jackets roster.
The impressive rebounding numbers stem purely from heart, hustle and an uncanny knack for tracking down a loose ball. This funnels perfectly into his aforementioned ability to push the ball up the court and get easy buckets. Minnesota have plenty of talent littering their roster, but outside of Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson, they are noticeably deficient in the toughness department, Okogie should immediately help sure that up.
Skills Tier Two - Potential is there:
While Okogie is certainly capable of getting hot from behind the 3-point arc, he isn't the knockdown shooter the Timberwolves sorely crave ... yet. In his two seasons at Georgia Tech, the 20th pick in the draft converted 66 of his 173 long range attempts (38.2 percent). It's a solid mark that should have Timberwolves fans optimistic, but his strength and mindset are attacking the rim.
While the shooting stroke isn't laser sharp like the Timberwolves hope it will become, it's nothing to be worried about. Okogie doubled his 3-point attempts in his second year at GT, still managing to put up basically the exact same percentage, which is a great sign. The fact he didn't make over five triples once last season isn't such a promising sign.
With better spacing in Minnesota (Georgia Tech's was disastrous) and more repetition on that jumper, Okogie should be splashing plenty of triples in no time.
Okogie won't step into the league as a '3-and-D' contributor, but thanks to that budding stroke and ability to hound his defensive target, the 19-year-old gives himself a real chance to mold himself into the player every team is searching for. He can be a tad lazy when his opponent isn't touching the ball, but when they are he drops into position and gets to work.
Quick hands, decent feet and a will to defend are all traits that should soon become a staple of Okogie's game. According to NBA.com, the 2017-18 Timberwolves bench was the worst bench unit in terms of Defensive Rating, so their new addition should slide in and still make an immediate impact. Time will tell how big that impact will be.
Skills Tier Three- Get in the Gym!:
Finishing in traffic
When Okogie gets out in transition, he can be deadly. However, when he has to go up against the tall timber at the rim, things get a little less efficient. He may be a tremendous athlete with a toughness that most 6-foot-4 guards only dream of, but 'Obi-Wan Okogie' lacks the craftiness and touch to consistently finish at the rack.
He did finish with the fifth-most made free throws in the entire Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) this past season, so he knows how to get to the cup with the best of them, the trick is finishing strong against the big bodies of the NBA. This may all be redundant though, as he will likely be restricted to a 3-point shooting bench role.
Lacking in this area might not hurt him or the Wolves much in year one, but it is definitely something Okogie will need to work on as his NBA career unfurls.
This goes hand-in-hand with the previous weakness we discussed. With Okogie struggling to find consistency at the rim, he jacked up far too many ineffective pull up jumpers, whether it be from mid-range or from deep.
Okogie was forced to do a lot of heavy lifting offensively at Georgia Tech - and the opposition knew it - so maybe that plays into his sometimes questionable shot selecting methods. Nonetheless, with shot selection already hampering Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler at times throughout last season, Minnesota can ill-afford to have another player who doesn't choose his shooting spots with intelligence.
Keita Bates-Diop - 6-foot-8 - F - 22-years-old
Skills Tier One - Ready to Roll:
The first thing you notice when you lay eyes on Bates-Diop is the arms that extend into next week, like seriously, they are long as heck. He isn't the quickest on his feet, but these gangly limbs give him that extra bit of recovery time to be able to switch out onto guards and wings effectively. Combine this with his ability to defend the rim at an NBA-ready level (averaged 1.8 blocks per game in 17-18') and you can see why KBD's defensive versatility will swiftly translate to the NBA.
It's not just on the defensive end of the floor that Bates-Diop's size and length will make an impact, his scoring touch makes him a positional nightmare for opposition coaches. The 6-foot-8 prospect could be the archetypal power forward in this day and age, blending an intriguing mix of face up, transition and 3-point shooting skill sets.
Provided Tom Thibodeau doesn't glue him to the pine, look for Keita Bates-Diop to immediately cause mismatches on both ends of the floor.
Far too often last season Timberwolves fans were infuriated by the lack of movement on the offensive end. Watching four players stand around while the other - usually Jeff Teague or Jimmy Butler - dribbled the oxygen out of the ball became the nightly show in the Twin Cities, that won't be the case while Bates-Diop is on the floor.
According to Synergy Sports, the combo forward ended his final season at OSU putting up 1.40 Points Per Possession (PPP) when cutting, placing him in the 88th percentile nation-wide. Bates-Diop is frequently moving on the offensive end, which regularly leads to easy points. Maybe he could teach new teammate Andrew Wiggins a thing or two.
Skills Tier Two - Potential is there:
Like Okogie, Bates-Diop isn't going to blow anyone's socks off from behind the arc from day dot, he can certainly contribute from long range though. The Big Ten Player of the Year nailed 36 percent of his shots from downtown last season, he also made over three triples on 11 different occasions.
The ability to make volume 3-pointers is essential for forwards who hope to garner minutes in the NBA, and if his outstanding final year at Ohio State is anything to go by Bates-Diop is well on his way to big minutes. The problem is the Timberwolves ranked at the very bottom of the league in 3-point attempts and makes in 2017-18, so they need help pretty much like ... now.
Let's hope the hyphenated hero comes to the rescue.
Face up/Post Game
If slowing the game down and spoon-feeding the post wasn't a dying art in the NBA, his ability to dominate in the mid-post would be right at the top of Keita Bates-Diop's skill chart. Despite his big man size and length, KBD is smooth as butter when he faces up and decides to get buckets. If he isn't banging the mid-range jimmy with a hand in his face, he is using his long strides to slice through the shot-swatters.
The 0.86 PPP he put up in post up situations isn't ideal, but you can clearly see the budding inside-out potential when you watch Bates-Diop in his dominant final year in college. Tom Thibodeau does run somewhat of a prehistoric offense, so don't be surprised if he does decide to let KBD do some work in the post, and don't be surprised if it's successful.
Skills Tier Three: Get in the Gym!:
This is the one area that could hamper Bates-Diop's ability to play as the small forward in taller line-ups, his rusty handle. He isn't a complete train wreck, but he rarely ventures outside the basic, which could hurt him in the big leagues, the best scorers all create space well off the dribble and Bates-Diop simply can't do that.
One of the biggest indictments on the 22-year-old's inability to handle the rock effectively is the fact that despite racking up a huge 29.4 percent usage rate, he averaged more turnovers (1.8) than assists (1.6) per game. When he is matched up with bigger, less athletic power forwards, this weakness will scarcely be noticed, but it is something he needs to spend the summer(s) working on.
We have spoken a lot about how Keita Bates-Diop's favorable measurements will benefit him when he makes the leap to the NBA level, but his strength and build leave a lot to be desired. He is an exciting shot-blocker and he can certainly make life hard for the opposition in switching actions, but he will struggle against the big, bruising bodies of the NBA.
Thankfully for Bates-Diop, the league is now littered with stretch fours who spend a lot more time outside the paint than inside, so he won't have to worry about banging around in the post too often. That doesn't mean that he shouldn't be spending a whole lot of hours pumping iron. If he fills out and learns to stand stronger in the post, he will be a handful defensively.
There it is, the lowdown on the rooks. Let me know what you think on Twitter here.