With all of the new additions the Phoenix Suns have made to the roster, I feel like Deborah Kerr in the King and I. No, I’m not widowed and new to 19th century Bangkok. I’m singing, “Getting to know you, getting to know all about you”.
I think it’s valuable to understand where these players come from and how they are perceived by those you’ve been covering them. The series continues. Next up on the list is Keita Bates-Diop, who the Suns acquired via free agency and who last played for the San Antonio Spurs.
KBD’s numbers don’t jump off the page at you when you first look at them. 9.7 points last season in 42 starts and 67 games for the cellar dweller Spurs. 3.7 rebounds. 50.8/29.4/79.3 shooting splits. We’re not talking about a player who, on the surface, seems like a steal. But that is how most of us are feeling. Why?
Jesus Gomez from SB Nation‘s Pounding the Rock website was kind enough to answer some of the questions I have about the newest member of the Phoenix Suns. Here’s what he had to say, which fortified the “why” question.
John Voita: How would you describe KBD’s game? What are his strengths and what weaknesses should we prepare for?
Jesus Gomez: Keita Bates-Diop is someone who does all the complementary stuff. He’s not the best defender, the best scorer or the best shooter, but he can do a little bit of everything. His versatility is really his strength. Off the ball, he’s an excellent cutter and someone who can hit a wide open three. On the ball he’s developed a nifty post game to punish opponents who try to hide a smaller player on him.
On defense he’s not a stopper but he can hold his own against the bulkier small forwards and the smaller power forwards. He’s not going to make a lot of plays on that end but he’ll rotate and close out.
He’s just solid across the board.
JV: Who would you compare Bates-Diop to, past or present?
JG: A combination of Otto Porter Jr. and Bo Outlaw, I guess? He plays hard and smart to make up for his physical limitations and he’s at his best when others create for him and he can just focus on doing the little things.
JV: What can you tell us about his journey as an NBA player?
JG: Bates-Diop was on his way out of the NBA after failing to establish himself in Minnesota and Denver when the Spurs signed him to a two-way contract. He turned that opportunity into a three-year stint with the club and has now joined a contender, which speaks to his character.
It was probably tough to play for a San Antonio team that switched his role repeatedly but he never complained and was always ready to go when needed. He’s made it through perseverance and hard work.
JV: How durable of a player is he?
JG: It’s really hard to say. He had some small injuries in San Antonio but the Spurs were resting players in order to tank. Was he too hurt to play every time he missed games or was he kept out of the active roster as a precautionary measure? Impossible to know. He didn’t have any major health issues over the past three years and he doesn’t have a ton of NBA minutes on his body, so he should be fine.
JV: What was the most frustrating thing watching him play as a fan?
JG: It was a problem for several Spurs, but watching KBD pass up open threes was painful at times. He got better at just pulling the trigger last season but was still not a volume shooter and he did basically only take and make wide-open threes. Maybe having more success last year than he did in the past will allow him to trust his jumper more, but it’s doubtful, so get ready to scream “Take the shot, KBD!” at your TV at least a few times.
JV: Do you believe he could be a starter with Phoenix?
JG: Sure. He’s a low-usage opportunistic hustle player who will be happy to just play defense and take open shots, which is the type of guy you need when you have stars. He moves well without the ball, can guard several positions and he’ll make a fair share of his open threes. He shouldn’t be a starter on most teams, but in Phoenix he makes sense as one.
JV: Is he a “glad he’s gone” or “wish he stayed” kind of guy?
JG: He’s a “glad he’s gone” guy only because it simply didn’t make sense for the Spurs to keep him considering where they are in their rebuild. San Antonio doesn’t need veterans who will take minutes from younger players simply by being more reliable, and that’s something that could have happened if KBD had re-signed. It’s also good to see him get an opportunity to play with a contender.
JV: Any final thoughts?
JG: Keita Bates-Diop is not going to raise the ceiling for the Suns or any other team but he’s the type of guy that helps set the floor a little higher. He’ll always play hard and do exactly what’s asked of him without causing any distractions, which is valuable for both rebuilding teams like the Spurs and contenders like the Suns.
Much akin to Drew Eubanks and Yuta Watanabe, it sounds like Phoenix got themselves a quality player. Yes, Bates-Diop has his deficiencies. We shouldn’t expect him to be an All-Star. We shouldn’t expect him to make an All Defensive team. But what we can expect is someone who will play hard, be dedicated to the craft, and seize the opportunity on this team.
Could he eventually be a starter for the team? We are a summer away from answering that question.
It's July 6. Who is the fifth starter for the Phoenix Suns on opening night?— The Bright Side (@BrightSideSun) July 7, 2023