With the NFL regular season wrapping up, there won’t be as many former Buckeyes to keep track of heading into the playoffs, and those numbers will decrease each week until the season concludes with the Super Bowl next month. Now that there is a little extra time in your schedule, we figured it would be the perfect time to turn your attention to the hardwood to keep takes on the former Buckeyes in the NBA.
While there is only five former Ohio State players in the NBA (six if you want to count Micah Potter, who transferred to Wisconsin to close out his college career), there is an entertaining mix of players who used to sport the scarlet and gray. On Thursday evenings we are going to recap the week that was for the former Buckeye hoopers, before the NBA schedule ramps up for the weekend.
Mike Conley, Point Guard | Utah Jazz
Mike Conley is easily the most decorated Ohio State alum. After becoming an All-Star for the first time last year, the only thing missing from Conley’s resumé is an NBA title. The Jazz are definitely a contender in the Western Conference, where they currently sit third in the standings. Making the playoffs haven’t been a problem for Utah, the biggest issue has been getting over the hump and making it deep in the playoffs. Last year was a perfect example after the Jazz posted a 52-20 record in the regular season before losing in the Conference Semifinals.
Even though Conley is in his 15th season in the NBA, he is shooting better from behind the arc than at any time in his career. Last year Conley shot a career-best 41.2% from three-pointer range, and he has been even better this year, hitting nearly 43% of his three-pointers. So far this year Conley is averaging 14.3 points per game, which is his lowest mark in 10 years, but playing alongside guys like Donovan Mitchell, Jordan Clarkson, and Bojan Bogdanovic, Conley doesn’t have to do quite as much.
As the calendar turned to 2022, Conley had one of his better performances of the season, scoring 22 points, grabbing eight rebounds, and dishing out seven assists in a win over New Orleans. The eight rebounds were a season-high for the 2007 first round pick. Conley’s production did pick up in December, as he averaged 14.8 points per game for the month, which was more than a point higher than his averages in October and November. While he won’t give you huge scoring outputs, Conley is definitely a solid veteran that will allow for Utah to be a dangerous team in the postseason.
D’Angelo Russell, Point Guard | Minnesota Timberwolves
The issue with Russell’s NBA career is he has struggled to find any sense of normalcy. After being the second pick in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers, Russell is now on his fourth team in the NBA. The good news for Russell is it looks like he has found a bit of a home in Minnesota, since this is the team he has now been with the longest during his seven seasons in the NBA.
What helps Russell is he doesn’t have quite as big of a spotlight on him as he did in Los Angeles to start his career, or in Brooklyn where he was the top option. Playing alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards has taken some of the pressure off of Russell, and it is showing on the court. The point guard’s assists are up this year and his turnovers are down. Russell is a big reason the Timberwolves are at least contending for a playoff spot so far this season.
The bad news for Russell is he tested positive for COVID-19 and has been on the sidelines since December 23rd. In that game just before Christmas, Russell was outstanding, scoring 19 points, recording 14 assists, and pulling down seven rebounds. The good news is Russell was removed from the NBA’s health and safety protocols recently and was scheduled to be be back on the court on Wednesday night. As long as Russell, Towns, and Edwards can stay healthy, Minnesota will be in the mix to be a playoff team this year.
Keita Bates-Diop, Small Forward | San Antonio Spurs
While the first two players we have looked at have seen plenty of action during their time in the NBA, the same can’t be said about Keita Bates-Diop. Prior to this season, Bates-Diop had only started three games in the first three seasons in his NBA career, and all three of those games came in his first season.
At least of late Bates-Diop has been getting more opportunities, as he is averaging 16 minutes per game since the beginning of December. The highlight of Bates-Diop’s career has to be the performance he had in the final game the Staples Center was actually named the Staples Center. On December 23rd against the Lakers, Bates-Diop went 11-11 from the field and scored 30 points in a 138-110 win.
At this point it feels like Bates-Diop isn’t going to be a starter that plays 30 minutes per game in the NBA, but there’s nothing wrong with coming off the bench and being a role player. The former Buckeye should get a chance to see some playing time since he isn’t playing on a San Antonio team that looks like they’ll be in the playoff hunt. Who knows, the Spurs might get an offer from a contender at the playoff time for Bates-Diop that’ll see the small forward on a winning team heading to the playoffs.
Jae’Sean Tate, Small Forward | Houston Rockets
Last year Tate was one of the best stories in the NBA after he finally made it to the league, and not only was able to find a place with Houston, he saw his role expand as the year went on. Tate hasn’t slowed down in year two with the Rockets, becoming one of the most consistent players on the young squad.
In 36 games this year, Tate is averaging 12.5 points per game, which more than a point better than his average from his rookie season. Tate has also started all but one of the 36 games he has played in this season. The best performance from Tate this year came at the beginning of December when he scored 32 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against Oklahoma City. The output was one of four double-doubles Tate has recorded this year.
It’s a good thing Houston has Tate since the rest of the team is a big mess. The Rockets are 10-28 this year, which is the worst record in the Western Conference. Since it’s likely Houston is going to be drafting in the lottery, Tate could be looked as a veteran leader, despite his limited time in the NBA, for the Rockets for the near future.
Duane Washington Jr., Point Guard | Indiana Pacers
There were many Ohio State fans that questioned Washington’s decision to declare for the NBA Draft after last season. A lot of those fans felt vindicated when Washington wasn’t selected in the 2021 NBA Draft. Unfortunately those that didn’t believe in Washington are eating a little bit of crow now since the former Buckeye has seen some run in the NBA lately.
Washington has spent most of the season with Fort Wayne in the G-League, but with the Pacers dealing with some COVID-19 positive tests, Washington was needed in Indianapolis. After playing just 18 total minutes in his first four games with the Pacers, Washington has seen at least 30 minutes in each of the last three games he has played. The former Buckeye scored a career-high 20 points against Cleveland on Sunday, and followed that performance up with 17 points against the Knicks on Tuesday night.
It’s likely that once the Pacers get some players back from the NBA’s health and safety protocols, that Washington will likely be headed back to the G-League. At least Washington as able to try and work through some nerves that come with playing in the NBA early on in a career, which are evident by Washington shooting 6-26 from behind the arc so far this year. It’ll be interesting to see what is next for Washington’s career.