When Keita Bates-Diop made the decision to leave Ohio State early for the NBA, he did so with the projection of being taken in the first round of the draft.
Nearly three months later, that, but little else, remains certain. The Big Ten player of the year appears in every significant mock draft entering the draft Thursday night, but where he might end up in the first round varies widely. A survey of mock drafts Wednesday had Bates-Diop going as high as No. 20 and as low as No. 29.
That latter projection, posted to CBSSports.com, would reunite Bates-Diop with former roommate D’Angelo Russell in Brooklyn. But as NBA draft analyst Jonathan Givony, the founder of DraftExpress.com and now an ESPN contributor, put it, the prevailing question about Bates-Diop remains his drive.
“Bates-Diop increased his stock dramatically with a breakout season, moving among all of the frontcourt positions for an overachieving Ohio State team and looking like an ideal fit for the modern NBA — if he can find a way to rev his motor into higher gear at the professional level,” Givony wrote.
Bates-Diop was not invited to the NBA’s “green room” to watch the draft, and it’s unclear where he will be when his name is called. His former teammates will be watching together in Columbus.
“Everybody’s super excited for Keita,” sophomore wing Musa Jallow said Wednesday. “I love everything about Keita. He’s a great person. He deserves this. I just hope the best for him and hope his career carries on for a long time.”
If he is taken in the first round, Bates-Diop will be the 25th Ohio State player to achieve such an honor and the first since Russell in 2015. Bates-Diop is all but assured of being the first Buckeye to be drafted since Russell, even if he slips to the second round.
That’s a possibility SI.com mentioned while projecting him to be taken at No. 25 by the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the many teams known to have hosted him for a workout.
“Although he’s not a great athlete, nor is he a perfect fit as a small-ball four, he might be a player who’s easy to plug into lineups, given his ability to make jumpers and rebound,” it wrote. “Bates-Diop could end up falling to the early second round, and his game is an acquired taste to a lot of scouts, but the fit makes sense here.”
Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann, who spent time at the NBA combine to support Bates-Diop, said he heard at the time he could go as high as the 15th pick.