By: Dan Slaubaugh
The Minnesota Timberwolves entered draft night in need of wing depth. When the night ended, they had not just landed one wing prospect with legitimate three-and-D upside, but two.
With the 20th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden selected Josh Okogie, a 6’4” shooting guard out of Georgia Tech. With the 48th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, they selected Keita Bates-Diop, a 6’7” forward out of Ohio State fresh off a Big 10 Player of the Year award.
I’ll be honest. I’m unsure if I have ever watched Okogie or Bates-Diop play basketball in my life. If I have, I sure didn’t know I was at the time. Whether that’s because I wasn’t heavily plugged into the college basketball landscape this year or the two weren’t vastly well-known college names, I’m not sure. What I do know is they boast the physical and mental makeups to mold into standout three-and-D players for a long time in the NBA.
With many writers projecting KBD to be a first-round selection, the Wolves got great value at 48 with him still on the board. Nevertheless, I’m not going to try to pretend I know much more than that. Therefore, I’ll leave you with some stats and Jake will have more on these two fellas this weekend).
2017-18 season stats:
Okogie: 18.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.7 blocks, 1.8 steals, 38.0 3PT%, 4.2 3PA, 41.6 FG%.
Bates-Diop: 19.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.6 blocks, 0.9 steals, 35.9 3PT%, 5.4 3PA, 48 FG%.
What do these selections mean for the Timberwolves heading into free agency?
One of the biggest storylines for the Wolves heading into the NBA Draft was the status of Gorgui Dieng and his hefty contract consisting of three years and 48 million dollars. It was rumored that the Wolves might package their first-round pick and Dieng in attempt to free cap space needed to sign franchise superstar Jimmy Butler next offseason. That did not happen last night, so corresponding moves will be made in the next few months. Moreover, Dieng will still be shopped, and likely out the door if the Wolves can find a taker. If not, it will be tough for the Wolves to re-sign RFA Nemanja Bjelica who should draw interest from other teams this summer. Regarding center Cole Aldrich, expect him to be waived within the next few weeks to free up extra spending money for free agency.
The Wolves acquired two solid prospects with long wingspans that can defend multiple wing positions, but neither yet have the “dead-eye shooter” skill set the Wolves sorely need. Consequently, this makes me believe if they have to pick “defense” or “shooting” come free agency, they’ll lean towards shooting. Minnesota ranked dead last in three-pointers attempted per game last season at 22.5 treys per game. Ideally, one of Okogie or Bates-Diop can be the knockdown catch-and-shoot guy the Wolves need in the corner, but it’s tough to rely on two rookies night in and night out. This brings me to my next point.
As we shift towards the free agent season, there are five wings I would like the Wolves to pursue: Wayne Ellington, Avery Bradley, Will Barton, Rodney Hood and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Notice a similarity between the five? They’re all seasoned-vets. Sure, Okogie and KBD have great upside and might possibly possess the ability to contribute right away. But, a team looking to win a playoff series next April can’t head into a season heavily relying on two rookies to provide scoring punch and execution on both sides of the ball like the five guys listed. Even after drafting Okogie and KBD, the Wolves are still pretty thin on the wing. They need to grab another in free agency.
'Twas a good night in Minnesota
The team’s ceiling still rests on the shoulders of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, but tonight was a step in the right direction and a job well done by Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden in adding quality wings with two-way upside to the fold. In a league where successfully defending the perimeter has become vitally important due to the multitude of treys launched every game, Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diope have the potential to be game-changers down the road for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Don't miss your first chance to see them in action during Summer League, which promises to be far more exciting with new rookies in hand.