Bates-Diop carving out major role with Timberwolves

With an established star and several young talents to build around, the Minnesota Timberwolves are attempting to establish themselves as a playoff contender once again.

From established players like Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins to newcomers like Josh Okogie and Jarrett Culver, we’re taking a weekly look at the present, and future, of the Wolves.

Each Thursday we’ll also track the progress of the Iowa Wolves standouts who might be of help to the Wolves in the future, or a current member of Minnesota’s roster.

This is the fourth edition of the 2019-20 Young Wolves Tracker.

More Timberwolves coverage

Spotlight on …

Forward Keita Bates-Diop

Bates-Diop’s strong start is translating into big-time NBA minutes.

The second-year forward has taken on a prominent role in the Wolves’ rotation since returning from the G League last month.

A second-round pick last year, Bates-Diop played sparingly as a rookie, making just 30 appearances for Minnesota while averaging just under 17 minutes per game.

He started 2019 in the G League, shooting 53.6% from the field and 61.5% from 3-point range in two games for Iowa before rejoining Minnesota.

Used sparingly in his first four games of the season, Bates-Diop logged a career-high 37 minutes during the Wolves’ loss to Phoenix on Nov. 23.

He responded with a career-high 22 points, four rebounds and two assists against just one turnover, going 9-for-18 from the field. He’s been a regular ever since.

Bates-Diop is averaging 13.8 points in 26.6 minutes over his last five, shooting 60% from the field and 54.2% from 3-point range on nearly five 3-point tries per game.

His sharpshooting has improved dramatically. Bates-Diop is averaging 5.9 3-point tries per 36 minutes, up from just 3.7 a year ago and converting at a 53.6% clip, up from just 25% a year ago.

Bates-Diop leads the Wolves with 12 corner 3s and nine makes over his last five games. No other Wolves player has more than four over that span.

It’s a welcome development for the Wolves, who are letting it fly from deep this season — they’re averaging 39.3 3-point attempts per game, good for fourth — but shooting just 33% from beyond the arc.

WOLF TRACKS

— Andrew Wiggins has cooled off slightly after his red-hot start, but continues to post impressive numbers. He tied a season high with seven assists in the Wolves’ loss to Memphis on Sunday and tied a career high with three blocks against Dallas on Wednesday. He set a franchise record against the Mavericks with his 466th made 3 and now has 468 in his career.

— Karl-Anthony Towns fell short of a double-double against the Mavericks, the first time that’s happened since Nov. 11.

— The Wolves recalled rookie Naz Reid from Iowa on Sunday. He missed Wednesday’s game with a sore shoulder. Signed last summer as an undrafted free agent, Reid averaged 19.8 points, 10 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.1 blocks in nine games for Iowa.

— Rookie Jarrett Culver set career highs in consecutive games, grabbing seven rebounds against Memphis and eight against Dallas. He had six assists against the Mavericks, one off his career high.