No. 1: Bates’ defense hasn’t been awful
When Bates came into the league, many people were projecting that he would be a negative defender, and for good reason. Bates has a negative wingspan, meaning that his wingspan is shorter than his height. Having a longer wingspan usually means better perimeter defense, and Bates’ wingspan isn’t amazing.
Bates added in two steals in the previous game against the Grizzlies, which was encouraging. His ability to pick off plays in passing lanes has been a pleasant surprise, as he didn’t really showcase that skill in college.
Bates also has shown a lot more effort on defense, as he’s become more vocal on the defensive side of the ball, and has just had more energy while guarding on the perimeter.
Bates will not likely ever become an All-Defensive-kind of player, but he might not end up being a player that teams target on defense to try and get easy baskets. He should improve on defense throughout his career, and could eventually become a factor on that end as he hopefully gets stronger.