Rookie Bates-Diop proves worth as Timberwolves starter

The Minnesota Timberwolves aren’t exactly Timberpups anymore. Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are well into their NBA careers at this point, while the Wolves’ lineup features seven players with 5-plus years of experience.

Welcome to the 2018-19 edition of the Young Wolves Tracker, formerly the Timberpups Tracker.

Each Thursday we’ll either track the progress of the Iowa Wolves players who might be of help to the Timberwolves in the future, or a current member of Minnesota’s roster. We’ll also give updates on the other young players from the previous week.

This is the 18th edition of the 2018-19 Young Wolves Tracker.


Forward Keita Bates-Diop

Steal of the draft.

That was the term coined for forward Bates-Diop after the Timberwolves selected him 48th overall back in June.

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Bates-Diop, a 6-foot-7 standout from Ohio State, was coming off a season that earned him 2017-18 Big Ten player of the year accolades after averaging 19.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game as a senior.

A few mock drafts across the web had the Wolves selecting Bates-Diop in the first round, but Minnesota opted to take the electric Josh Okogie out of Georgia Tech with the 20th pick. Bates-Diop fell to the Wolves at 48.

Minnesota is sure glad he did.

When Tom Thibodeau was at the helm, the 23-year-old appeared in just two games (out of 40) and tallied a total four points. But since Ryan Saunders has taken over, Bates-Diop has played 14 games — 10 of Minnesota’s last 11 contests and eight straight.

Battling injuries across the roster, Saunders inserted Bates-Diop into the starting five over the weekend to take the place of Andrew Wiggins, who has missed the last three games with a left quad contusion.

Bates-Diop took over the new role and didn’t miss a beat, averaging 13 points, five rebounds, 2.3 assists, one block and one steal over his first three career NBA starts. In those games, he shot 42.9 percent from the field (including 4 of 10 from downtown) and averaged 35 minutes per contest.

“He’s mature beyond his age,” Saunders said in a postgame press conference. “He’s got a good sense of humor when you’re around him, but he’s got a very workman-like approach when he comes into the gym. On the court, he’s ready to get his work in, and he’s always trying to improve.”

When Wiggins returns and if Robert Covington is healthy enough to return to the floor, Bates-Diop’s role will decrease. But he’s shown the Wolves his value over the last few weeks, and that he just might be the steal of the draft.


— Guard Cameron Reynolds made his NBA debut March 3 and has played in five games for the Wolves. He set career highs with 12 points, two assists and two steals in 25 minutes during Minnesota’s 133-107 loss to Denver on Tuesday. Minnesota signed Reynolds to a 10-day contract Feb. 27 and inked another 10-day deal Saturday. After that contract expires, Minnesota must sign him for the remainder of the season or release him.

C.J. Williams, who signed a two-way contract with Minnesota last summer, has played the last two games. He poured in 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting against Denver for his eighth career game in double figures.

— Guard Tyus Jones ranks third in the NBA in steals-to-turnover ratio. Since Jan. 6, Jones has compiled 19 steals and just 12 turnovers.

Gorgui Dieng, in his sixth season with Minnesota, will surpass Wally Szczerbiak for fourth on the Timberwolves’ all-time games played list when he suits up Thursday night against Utah. Dieng and Szczerbiak are currently tied with 438 and trail Kevin Garnett (970), Sam Mitchell (757) and Doug West (609).