When Kaleb Wesson began his Ohio State journey in 2017, he weighed nearly 300 pounds, had difficulties guarding other big men, and often struggled to keep up with the action on the court. His offensive toolbox was limited to shots within 10 feet of the basket, and his overall athleticism was not that of a future NBA player.
But as the modern NBA “center” evolved, so too has Wesson. Gone are the days where every team employs a bulky, bruising big man who defends the post like a guard dog but can’t shoot anything but a layup. While these players still exist, most NBA forwards possess the ability to score in the post as well as step out and shoot. Many are elite passers as well, such as Denver’s Nikola Jokic and Al Horford.
Wesson has lost nearly 50 pounds since he stepped on campus during the summer of 2017. His three-point shot has improved from 28.6% his freshman year to 42.5% last season, which made him not just a good shooter, but one of the Big Ten’s most lethal. His minutes per game jumped by nearly 10 in that timeframe, and as the weight dropped off, he was able to better keep up with the pace of play. Wesson also learned to draw fewer fouls, especially in the first half of games.
While there is certainly polishing that needs to be done to certain areas of his game, there was a time when it was not a question of if he would be an NBA player, but if he would be a good college player. 300 pound college basketball players are few and far between, especially those who made the amount of mental mistakes Wesson did as a freshman.
The fact that we are even having a conversation about Wesson possibly jumping to the league speaks volumes to the hours upon hours of hard work Ohio State’s leading scorer put in over the past few seasons, just to give himself a chance to play in the quickly-evolving NBA. Nobody expects him to be a lottery pick, and some don’t expect him to be taken at all. But a 6-foot-9 center who can step out and shoot threes is a weapon that any NBA team would love to have, even if it means dedicating some time to additional development before he’s on the big stage.
This year’s NBA draft, which typically is held in June, has been pushed all the way back to November due to COVID-19. The hope was that by pushing it back, the festivities and fanfare that accompany it could still happen, but unfortunately COVID-19 still has a firm grip on the United States. The draft will be held virtually, and Wesson will be one of 205 players hoping to hear their name called on Nov. 18 with one of the 60 picks in the 2020 NBA draft.
Most outlets are predicting the younger Wesson brother to be drafted somewhere between picks 50-60, right at the tail end of the second round. Others, including ESPN and The Athletic, are not projecting Wesson to be selected at all. While the majority of mock drafts have Wesson being taken, things can go haywire if picks earlier in the draft do not go as planned and teams change their draft strategy.
In 2018, for example, former Ohio State star and Big Ten Player of the Year Keita Bates-Diop was widely expected to be drafted somewhere in the end of the first round of the draft. As the night went on, questions about Bates-Diop’s athleticism and age (he was 22 on draft day) caused his draft stock to plummet on the very day of the draft. Bates-Diop ultimately was drafted 48th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Cannot believe Normal product Keits Bates-Diop is still on the board halfway through the second round of the NBA Draft. Some team is gonna get a steal here late in the night with the 2017-18 Big Ten Player of the Year.— Matt McClain (@MattMcClain3) June 22, 2018
By the time he was selected, Bates-Diop, who was in attendance with his family and Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann, had already left the arena. Only players who were expected to be taken in the first round were invited to experience the draft in person, and by that point it seems Holtmann and the Bates-Diop family decided it would be best to head out after several agonizing hours waiting for his name to be called in the first round, to no avail.
Looking forward to a great night for KBD and family. Big time Scarlet and Grey ensemble by #33. pic.twitter.com/57xXXDxK3M— Chris Holtmann (@ChrisHoltmann) June 21, 2018
Bates-Diop slid anywhere from 20-25 spots away from his draft day projection. If Wesson’s stock falls off in a similar fashion, he likely will not be drafted. Draft day is unpredictable, so while someone’s name might shop up in a mock draft, things won’t shake out quite like that by the end.
Many media outlets project Wesson to be selected somewhere between picks 50-60. Here are a few examples.
Pick: No. 57 to the Philadelphia 76ers
Pick: No. 53 to the Oklahoma City Thunder
Pick: No. 60 to the New Orleans Pelicans
Pick: No. 57 to the Philadelphia 76ers
Kaleb Wesson has two tools that, when paired together, make him extremely valuable: size and perimeter shooting. These play in the NBA right now. However, Wesson lacks the mobility to guard at the NBA level. Wesson struggled mightily with the elite big men in the conference last year, such as Michigan State’s Xavier Tillman. Can you imagine him trying to defend Karl-Anthony Towns or Anthony Davis?
I think Wesson will be snatched up somewhere between 55-60, making him the first Ohio State player to be drafted since Bates-Diop in 2018. Maybe he makes an NBA roster this season, but it is more likely that he starts in the G-League before eventually moving up to the NBA or potentially signing overseas.