Ohio State as a team was certainly not done any favors by the NCAA Selection Committee, but the Buckeye players with NBA aspirations have a great opportunity to showcase their skills against potential lottery picks.
Armed with three players I believe have a place on NBA rosters – Jared Sullinger, William Buford, and John Deibler – nobody can claim the Buckeyes don’t have the NBA talent necessary to win a championship (if that is even a requirement). But there is the potential for them to go up against teams with some big time NBA talents themselves. Kentucky and North Carolina are stacked with future draft picks, and Villanova, Syracuse, and Xavier all sport some big time prospects themselves. Lets go through the three Buckeyes best suited for the NBA and then hit up some of the other players of note and see how they match up with the Bucks.
Jared Sullinger: There isn’t a lot to say that hasn’t already been said at this point. He is a force in the post that has range out to 18 ft. He plays solid defense for a freshman. And he has numbers that can go up against any other player in the country. But there are some questions in his game that are preventing him from entering the discussion for the #1 overall pick. He plays like a center, insofar that he dominates with his strength down low and isn’t overly quick, but his body screams power forward. Since he has some range to his jumper this won’t hurt his offensive game, but defensively he will have struggle sticking with guys on the perimeter. Sullinger appears to have the work ethic that will allow him to shed some weight and increase his quickness on the perimeter, but even if he doesn’t he can have a similar type of career that Elton Brand had pre-injuries. Despite not having superstar upside, he doesn’t have much downside, and his worst case scenario is Paul Milsap, which is solid.
William Buford: A player I feel like is being underrated by major media outlets, he is a super solid player that can help out in many aspects of the game. He doesn’t have high level NBA physical attributes, but he isn’t awful, and his offensive game is diverse. He will have trouble attacking the rim at the next level, but he has a quick enough first step to create space for his midrange game, and he has a pretty good outside shot too. His off the dribble game is more advanced than most guards, shooting 44% in off the dribble situations, and he shoots 43% from deep. Defensively he has shown improvement in his three years and projects to be solid in the NBA in this area. Currently, he is projected as an early 2nd round pick, but I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be projected as a late 1st round pick, at worst.
Likely Draft Position: Late 1st Round
John Diebler: The NBA has a tendency to over-think things, and sometimes when a player is great at one thing but not much else they get passed on for athletic projects. That probably will happen to Diebler, despite being the best 3 pt shooter in NBA history. There are plenty of guys in the NBA with his skill set though, and if he can work on his defense he can become a very productive bench player on a good team. That is certainly worthy of a 2nd round pick. If Andy Rautins can get drafted, certainly so can Diebler, who is a Jason Kapono clone.
Likely Draft Position: Late 2nd Round
Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight: Jones is the reason I picked Kentucky to take down the Bucks in the Sweet 16 (its not because I went to Indiana and am just a hater). There just aren’t players with Jones combination of size and skill in the Big Ten. While he projects as a SF at the next level, he has the ability to play both inside and outside and is a matchup nightmare. Offensively, he has 3 pt range but doesn’t shoot a great percentage (30%), but his midrange game is much better and with a quick first step and good size he can get it off with ease over most opponents. He can also muscle his way all the way to the rim and finish either with a floater or a jam. David Lighty, assuming they go against each other, will have his hands full with Jones and his muscle mass. His athleticism, matched with his 7-2 wingspan, also make him a very good defender. He also rebounds very well, and rebounding is typically one stat that translates extremely well from the college game to the pros.
Likely Draft Position: Top 8
To some, Brandon Knight has been a disappointment. Those people see how great PGs coached by John Calipari have been the past three years and see all the ways that Knight doesn’t measure up. But when you take Knight for what he is you have a much different appreciation for his game. Is he worthy of a high pick like Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, and John Wall? Most definitely not. But he can be a solid combo guard at the next level if not a good starting PG if he works on his game. He has been turnover prone and needs to make better decisions on the court, but he sports a very good perimeter game and really knows how to score the basketball. Draft Express recently compared his game to Jason Terry, and because of the way they play the game it is a very apt comparison. For now though, Knight struggles with turnovers and getting his teammates involved, although he has gotten better in this area. Aaron Craft will have his hands full with Knight’s athleticism, but he has handled PGs of all types all season. Craft loves to get right in the face of the guy he is guarding, and while Knight is very quick he has a turnover problem. It is a matchup that could decide the game.
Likely Draft Position: Top 20
John Henson: I have already written a good deal about Harrison Barnes, but I want to add just one more thing: his inability to consistently get to the rim is troublesome, although if he works on his handles he can have a game similar to Paul Pierce.
Henson is a guy that has flown under the radar for much of the season but is an athletic big man that can run the floor. In other words, he is an NBA GMs wet dream. While very raw he has improved offensively, but still averaged just 11 points per game on 50% shooting – you would hope a low usage big like him would shoot closer to 60% from the floor. But he is one of the best rebounders in college basketball as well as one of the best defenders – his length and quickness makes him a nightmare for opposing guards trying to get to the rim. He also plays with a lot of energy and you can tell he has been working on his game. Sullinger might have a major advantage in the post because of his strength, but Henson is such a good shot blocker that he can recover from bad post position.
Likely Draft Position: Late Lotto
Moupthaou Yarou: If Villanova shakes their recent struggles and gets passed George Mason in the first round, Yarou is a player that has caught the eye of NBA scouts and will give OSU problems inside. Unfortunately for him, the Wildcats don’t often enough get the ball to him inside, but he still affects games defensively. Currently projected as a late 1st or early 2nd round pick, he needs some big games if he wants to declare for the NBA, and going up against Jared Sullinger would give him that opportunity. Offensively he is raw but has displayed a decent mid-range shot. Defensively, he is a load. Sullinger normally just overpowers defenders but Yarou is just as big – Villanova will not have to double in the post against OSU. Like Henson, Yarou is a very good shot blocker, although he learned to box out from the JJ Hickson School of Rebounding. He also gets into foul trouble too often, which keeps him off the court more than he should be.
Likely Draft Position: Fringe 1st Round
With so many lottery picks in this region, plus plenty of guys worthy of later picks, the NBA scouts will be out in full force, and it is a great opportunity for Buford, Diebler, and even David Lighty to improve their draft stock. It also means OSU will be going up against better individual players than it has all season – there is no wing in the Big Ten as good as Terrence Jones or Harrison Barnes, and it isn’t even close. Still, individuals don’t win games, and the East region is definitely the most intriguing in my book.
This article originally appeared on LandLoyalty.com