clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Ohio State's 5 current NBA players each face interesting, uncertain offseasons

Mike Conley, Kosta Koufos, D'Angelo Russell, Jared Sullinger, and Evan Turner will find their way into the news this summer.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, not one of the five former Buckeyes suiting up in the NBA is still playing. Jared Sullinger and Evan Turner's injury-depleted Boston Celtics were bounced in the first round. Mike Conley (Achilles) had to watch from the sidelines as his Memphis Grizzlies were swept in their opening round series by the San Antonio Spurs. And Kosta Koufos' Sacramento Kings and D'Angelo Russell's Los Angeles Lakers were nowhere close to playoff basketball.

But all five potentially face critical pivot points in their careers this summer, whether it be through free agency or personnel moves that are out of their control. In alphabetical order, here's the lowdown on what's going on with each former Buckeye this summer:

Mike Conley

Conley, 28, is entering free agency for the first time, as the four-year, $45 million extension the former Ohio State point guard inked with the Grizzlies in November 2010 will expire on July 1. Conley will be an unrestricted free agent, meaning the Grizzlies, the team that selected Conley with the fourth overall pick in the 2007 draft, will not get a shot at matching any contract offer(s) that come Conley's way.

The odds appear to be against Conley re-upping with the Grizzlies. Star center Marc Gasol will be 32 next season and is coming off foot surgery. Zach Randolph and Tony Allen -- who along with Conley and Gasol make up Memphis' 'Grit-and-Grind' core -- will be entering their age-35 seasons in 2016-17 and are clearly in decline. Jeff Green and Courtney Lee were traded away during the season. In the short-term, Memphis -- currently sans a coach -- will likely continue its downward trend, as 2015-16 marked the first time since 2009-10 that the franchise failed to win at least 52 percent of its games.

Conley will be one of the NBA's top free agents. Not only is Conley the consummate point guard who involves his teammates, he is a capable 3-point shooter, a strong defender, and one tough mother who plays through pain. The Spurs will reportedly pursue Conley, as will any other NBA team in need of a point guard.

Kosta Koufos

After signing a four-year, $33 million contract with the Kings last summer, Koufos appeared in 78 games with his new team in 2015-16, averaging 6.8 points and 5.4 rebounds in 19 minutes per game. In 14 starts, Koufos racked up 11 points and 9.1 boards a game.

One of the most interesting storylines over the NBA's offseason will be the fate of DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings' productive-but-mercurial franchise center. Cousins' production has never been in question, as the 6-foot-11, 270-pound behemoth has been named an All-Star in each of the past two seasons. But Cousins has seemingly clashed with anyone and everyone associated with the Kings over his first six campaigns in the NBA, and it remains to be seen how his relationship will develop with new coach Dave Joerger.

Should Cousins be dealt in a blockbuster trade, Koufous could become the Kings' starter at center, or at least take part in a timeshare with Willie Cauley-Stein.

D'Angelo Russell

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft flashed brilliance in his rookie season, including a 39-point, ice-in-his-veins outburst on March 1. There were also low points, notably his season-long dissent with former Lakers coach Byron Scott and Russell recording unsuspecting Nick Young as Russell's Lakers' teammate admitted that he cheated on fiancee Iggy Azalea.

Things are looking up for Russell, though. Los Angeles hired sought-after Golden State Warriors assistant Luke Walton as its new coach, and the ex-Laker player has already expressed his admiration for Russell's game. Kobe Bryant's retirement tour has mercifully ended. And L.A. has only $26.1 million in salary committed for next season. How the Lakers dole out that freed-up cash will go a long way in dictating the trajectory of Russell's career.

Jared Sullinger

Sullinger is set to net his first taste of free agency after completing his fourth season with the Celtics. Sullinger, 24, is a restricted free agent, though -- meaning the Celtics, if they so chose, can match the terms of an offer sheet the 6-foot-9, 260-pound forward inks with another squad.

How the market develops will be an interesting study for Sullinger. The former Ohio State star missed most of the second half of the 2014-15 season, but rebounded to start 73 games this year, averaging a tad over 10 points and eight rebounds per game. It's well-known that the Celtics, a team comprised mostly of role players, are in search of a true star player, and that strategy could affect how Boston approaches Sullinger's free agency.

Evan Turner

Turner flourished in his second season under Celtics' coach Brad Stevens, notching 10.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists while shooting a career-best 46 percent from the field. After making 57 starts for Boston in 2014-15, the 27-year-old Turner thrived coming off the bench in 2015-16, leading one of the NBA's most efficient bench units.

As an upcoming unrestricted free agent, how Turner decides his fate will be compelling case. The former No. 2 overall pick looks to have found a niche in Boston under a coach who has figured out how to utilize his strengths, but it's likely Turner could find a larger payday elsewhere.