Here at Bright Side of the Sun, we are rolling through the Suns Player Previews as training camp nears.
The Keita Bates-Diop addition was an integral part of what Phoenix’s approach was this summer. They added a needed combination of size, versatility, and youth across the board with players who are hungry to prove themselves.
The Phoenix Suns should want Keita Bates-Diop to outplay his contract to the point where he gets the bag somewhere else this summer. The same goes for Josh Okogie and just about anyone on these pseudo-two-year contracts.
Not only does that help them pitch their next targets for similar contracts next summer, but if they can optimize their role players this season, their chances at a title skyrocket.
Wing/Forward, 6’8”, 229 pounds, 27-years-old, 7’3” wingspan
The Phoenix Suns wasted no time inking Keita Bates-Diop to a two-year deal on the first day of free agency this summer.
Bates-Diop was the 48th overall pick out of Ohio State back in 2018 after spending 4 years with the Buckeyes. He has played for Minnesota, Denver, and most recently San Antonio as he enters his seventh season in the NBA.
2-years, $5.1 million (player option for 2024-25)
In 2023-24, Bates-Diop will earn a base salary of $2,346,614. He will have a $2,654,444 player option for the 2024-25 season.
Free agent F Keita Bates-Diop has agreed to a two-year, $5M deal with the Phoenix Suns, co-head of @CAA_Basketball Austin Brown tells ESPN. Deal includes a player option. Bates-Diop will have a chance to earn a starting forward spot.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 30, 2023
Admittedly, I haven’t watched a ton of San Antonio basketball over the past few years. I did scout Bates-Diop when he attended Ohio State and have seen him slowly develop over the years, including a breakout season of sorts for the Spurs a season ago.
I went ahead and took a quick dive into the games he impacted most (both positively and negatively) to get a feel for what he looks like at his best (and worst) for the strengths and weaknesses portion.
Along with that, I brushed up on some end-of-season reviews and scouting reports to gather more information when forming this analysis.
While he isn’t elite in any one area, he is a fairly well-balanced player who can contribute across the board. One area he excels in is his ability to roll to the rim, especially when he gets a smaller defender on his hip. He is an excellent cutter who can catch defenders napping and leak down the weakside for easy buckets.
He almost plays like a big man offensively at times, as he’s not someone who necessarily explodes to the rim or hits tough shots off isolation moves, though he did show more flashes of self-creation than ever last season for the Spurs.
Phoenix should be able to use him in pick-and-roll actions in some creative ways. His ability to move without the ball is what is exciting, and when you pair that with how well he shot corner threes there’s room for offensive optimism.
His shot selection grade gets an A+ from me, as he doesn’t try to do anything he can’t do. That’s all you can ask for from a player who will likely be the fourth or fifth offensive option when he’s on the court. He has shot 51% from the field the past two seasons combined, backing that evaluation up statistically.
He isn’t a high volume scorer, as he has only had six games with 20+ points during his six years in the association thus far, including a career-high of 30. Luckily for him (and Phoenix), that’s not what they’ll be asking him to do.
Situational scoring in an efficient manner should and will be the focus for KBD as he integrates into Phoenix’s offense.
The best way to describe Keita’s defensive game is... “solid”. While he doesn’t jump off the page as an elite defender, he uses his plus length, high motor and instincts to his advantage on that end.
Let’s make one thing clear to set expectations at a fair level entering the 2023-24 season. Keita Bates-Diop is not a “stopper” nor is he an off-ball menace.
He is, however, typically in the right place at the right time more often than not. His consistent effort and high-IQ earned him playing time in the past due to coaching staffs valuing how hard he plays.
He rarely blows coverage or tries to do too much on this end, playing within himself, similar to his style offensively. He closes out hard, fights through screens, and plays physically on the interior. Positioning is everything in the NBA, and he does a decent job of being where he should be. I’m excited to see the lineup that features him alongside Durant and Ayton, giving Phoenix the type of size in the interior they have lacked for... seemingly eternity.
He can guard wings and bigger players, and he offers a level of versatility that Phoenix will need. I’m excited to see him on a better team in a more structured environment on both ends.
One Key Factor
It all comes down to the jumper. This is the case with many Suns role players that will be vying for that fifth starter spot along with the right to close games out.
In 2022-23 for San Antonio, he made nearly 40 percent of his threes on a slight uptick in attempts. He shot 47.5 percent on wide open looks but when an opponent was within six feet of him, he only shot 28.3 percent.
While I believe the best season of his career is on the way, the numbers won’t jump off the page. He’ll have his moments, but with Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal and others ahead of him in the scoring department it’ll be tough to see the leap there statistically.
75 games played, 24.5 minutes per game, 9.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists on 50/38/78 shooting splits.
Last season he averaged a career-high 9.7 points per game on a bad San Antonio team. This season I’m projecting him to stay in that range on a contender in meaningful games.