Keeping up: Ohio State Buckeyes in the NBA, 4/9-4/17

Scott Halleran

The NBA wrapped up the regular season last night, and the dream of raising the Larry O'Brien trophy is still alive for three former Buckeyes.

Overall it was a good season for the former Buckeye basketballers in the NBA, with career-highs being set in numerous categories for the Buckeye alumni. Mike Conley, Kosta Koufos, and Evan Turner were durable for their teams, all playing in over 80 games on the season. Injuries derailed the seasons for Jared Sullinger, who was just started to come into his own in Boston, and Byron Mullens, who still put up the best numbers of his young career despite missing almost 30 games.The future looks bright for the former Buckeyes, and it is possible the number of Buckeyes in the NBA could grow next season with Deshaun Thomas declaring for the NBA draft earlier this month.

Mike Conley - PG - Memphis Grizzlies: After notching his fifth straight 20+ point game last Tuesday in a win against the Bobcats, Conley finished the season on a quiet note as the Grizzlies ended the season winning five of their last six games. One bright spot over Conley's last four games is that he did tie his season-high with 7 rebounds in the 82-78 win over Houston on Friday night. Conley was only 4-14 from the field in the win against Houston, so his contributions in other areas were vital to Memphis securing the victory.

During his six seasons in the NBA, Conley's shooting from the field has been incredibly consistent, but this season saw him register his best scoring numbers as a pro with 14.6 PPG. The increased scoring meant Conley's assist numbers took a very slight hit and were down from his past two seasons, but he still averaged over 6 APG. Conley's defense is what really has Memphis hoping they can have a deep run in the playoffs. With 2.2 steals per game, Conley finished in 2nd place behind Chris Paul this season, and will see the two match-up in the first round of the playoffs.

Even with the strong finish to the regular season by the Grizzlies, they couldn't wrestle home-court advantage away from the Clippers. Memphis will head into the NBA playoffs as the fifth seed in the Western Conference. To open up the playoffs Memphis will square off against the Los Angeles Clippers, who defeated the Grizzlies in seven games in the opening round of last year's playoffs. Conley and company will try and replicate what the Clippers did last year, and advance despite not holding home-court advantage to start the series.

Daequan Cook - SG - Chicago Bulls: It was either all or nothing for Daequan in the final six games of the regular season for the Bulls. Unfortunately there was only one game where it was all, and five games where there was pretty much nothing. In the loss to Miami on Sunday afternoon, Cook scored 10 points and pulled down 5 rebounds in just over 27 minutes. In the other five games Cook only saw a total of 4 minutes on the floor.

This season has been the worst of Cook's six-year NBA career so far, posting career-lows in minutes, PPG, FG%, and 3PT%. Cook started out the season in Oklahoma City, but was released and signed by Chicago in the middle of the season. The change of scenery and sporadic playing time made it hard for Cook to get into any rhythm, and that really hurt his shooting.

The Bulls enter the NBA playoffs as the fifth seed, and will now have to matchup with the Brooklyn Nets. With his inconsistent pattern of minutes during the regular season, it is hard to project what role Cook might have for the Bulls during the playoffs. Hopefully Cook will get a chance to see some playing time during the playoffs and make a difference for the Bulls.

Kosta Koufos - F/C - Denver Nuggets: The combination of Kosta Koufos starting and giving the Nuggets 20-25 minutes a game, and JaVale McGee coming off the bench seems to be a winning formula for Denver as they head into the playoffs. During the final week and a half of the regular season, Koufos did most of his work on the boards while he was on the court. In the final five games of the season Koufos registered a pair of double-digit rebound games for the Nuggets.

This season saw Koufos post the best numbers of his five-year NBA career, notching career-highs with 8.0 PPG, 6.9 RPG, and 1.3 BPG, which was 21st best in the NBA on the season. Koufos played in 81 games during the regular season, starting every one of them for the Nuggets.

The win by the Nuggets in the season finale over Phoenix gave Denver their 23rd straight victory at home, and a 38-3 record at the Pepsi Center this season. By earning the third seed in the Western Conference, Denver will try and capitalize on their homecourt advantage when they host Golden State to open up their best-of-seven series this weekend. With the status of Kenneth Faried up in the air heading into the playoffs with a sprained ankle, Koufos might be asked to shoulder a little more of the load until Faried is able to return.

Byron Mullens - F/C - Charlotte Bobcats: Mullens didn't see the floor in the final five games of an injury-riddled season for the Bobcats. Left ankle soreness plagued Mullens the last part of the season, and only allowed him to see four minutes of action in the last eleven games on the season.The season started out promising for Mullens and it looked as if he might be on his way to a break-out season, but the sprained ankle he suffered near Christmas derailed any momentum that he had going, and kept him on the shelf for about six weeks. On the season, Mullens set career-highs with 10.6 PPG and 6.4 RPG in the 53 games that he took the floor in for Charlotte.

The Bobcats finished the season on a three-game winning streak to just miss out on having the worst record in the NBA this season. This summer Mullens will be a restricted free agent this summer and it will be interesting to see if Charlotte keeps him or if a change in scenery is in order for Byron.

Evan Turner - G/F - Philadelphia 76ers: With Philadelphia already out of the playoff hunt, Turner's season ended with woeful shooting, including a 0-11 performance from the field on Friday night against Washington. After three straight games of registering single digits in the scoring column, Turner did put in 13 and 16 points as the 76ers closed out the regular season.

This season saw Turner's role in Philadelphia expand, starting every game for the 76ers and logging just over 35 minutes per game. In his third season in the NBA, Turner averaged a career-high 13.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 4.3 APG, but also a career-low 41.9% shooting from the field. The coaching situation bears watching in Philadelphia, with it being speculated that Wednesday's season finale against Indiana possibly being Doug Collins' last game as 76ers head coach. Every time that Turner takes the floor he is a triple-double waiting to happen, but his inconsistent play can be maddening at times. A change in coaching staff could be what Turner needs to help him take the next step in the development in his NBA game.

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