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You’re Nuts: Which former Buckeyes were we surprised never panned out in the NBA?

This does not mean these two have not had professional success, however.

Iowa State v Ohio State Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

As we now move into the heart of the college basketball season, we also move into deeper into the basketball version of “You’re Nuts.” The “Bucketheads,” Connor Lemons and Justin Golba discuss Ohio State and college basketball related topics weekly, and you decide who has the better argument.

Last week, they discussed what more they wanted for the Ohio State men’s basketball program: A regular season conference championship or a run to the Elite Eight? Connor’s pick of conference championship got 24% of the vote while Justin’s pick of an Elite Eight run got 76% of the vote. Tally one more for Justin.

Here are the standings after 39 weeks.

After 39 weeks:

Connor- 18
Justin- 13
Other- 6

(There have been two ties)

This week, the guys are talking NBA, and more specifically, which Buckeyes weren’t there as long as they maybe should have been. The NBA is the mountaintop and even some of the best basketball players in the world struggle once they get there.

So without further ado, here is the question for this week and the picks.

Today’s Question: Which former Buckeye were we surprised never quite panned out in the NBA?

Connor: Deshaun Thomas

Arizona v Ohio State Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

If you were tuned into Ohio State men’s basketball from 2011 to 2013, you know how much of a freak Deshaun Thomas was. At 6-foot-7, close to 220 pounds, and left-handed, Thomas basically glided to the basket and his being a southpaw made him an even tougher assignment on defense.

After averaging over 30 points per game in high school, Thomas committed to the Buckeyes as the No. 19 national recruit, the No. 1 player in the state of Indiana, and a consensus five-star talent. He didn’t quite score at that clip in Columbus, but he wasn’t terribly far off.

As a freshman, he averaged just over seven points per game while logging valuable minutes off the bench for an Ohio State team that still had Jared Sullinger, David Lighty, William Buford, Jon Diebler, Aaron Craft, and others. Clearly, minutes were tough to come by on that squad.

But the departures of Diebler and Lighty created space for Thomas, who played a strong Robin to Sullinger’s Batman during the 2011-12 season. Averaging 15.9 points and 6 rebounds per game, he was named All-Big Ten Second Team at the end of the season.

When Sullinger departed at the end of that season, it became Thomas’ team. He scored 19.8 points and averaged 5.9 rebounds per game, garnering All-Big Ten First Team honors at the end of the year. He averaged 35 minutes per game, shot 44% from the floor, knocked down 83% of his free throws, and was 34% from beyond the arc.

Thomas was selected 58th overall in the 2013 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs, an organization widely known for the development of under-recruited and under-hyped college prospects, like Thomas. After averaging 12 points per game for the Spurs’ summer league team, he signed with JSF Nanterre in France. Thomas has since bounced around in France, Spain, Turkey, Greece, and the NBA D-League (now the G-League), but never played a game in the NBA.

What went wrong? Well for starters, Thomas had one of the highest body-fat percentages of all players at the 2013 NBA Combine at 9.1 percent, and had the worst time in the agility drill of all 51 participants. He also refused to give some NBA teams (including the Spurs) his cell phone number, saying “I can’t be giving that out to just anyone!”

Thomas said that if a team drafted him, he’d be happy to give them his number. The Spurs — who did not have Thomas’s cell phone number — wound up drafting him.

Thomas was also knocked for being a poor defensive player and lacking the lateral quickness needed to guard in the NBA. They really must have thought little of his defense if even NBA scouts — a league where defense is often optional — said he couldn’t guard.

One thing can’t be argued though — Deshaun Thomas could score the basketball. Unfortunately, he never got to score it in the NBA. After his steady improvement from his freshman through junior seasons, I always thought he’d find a nice role for himself in the league. Regardless, we all still have plenty of great memories of Thomas and his violent, left-handed dunks.

Justin: William Buford

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Fred Squillante/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC

I almost picked Greg Oden for this, but with his career derailed by injuries, I don’t think that one would have been quite fair. I did think he would be in the NBA longer, but it feels like he never quite got a chance.

So, I went with one of my personal favorite Buckeyes ever, William Buford. Buford came to Columbus with a bus full of hype as one of the most anticipated recruits in a long while.

Coming from Libbey High School in Toledo, he averaged 28 points and 12 rebounds per game his junior season and then 23 points and 11 rebounds per game his senior season, which earned him the Mr. Ohio Basketball honor. Buford was a five-star recruit and rated as one of the top guys in the 2007 class.

He stayed four years at Ohio State and was there from 2008-12. During his freshman season, he averaged 11.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. He played in all 32 of their games and started 25 of them, becoming an asset for the Buckeyes right as he stepped foot on campus.

His sophomore season, he bumped up his numbers; averaging 14.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. His junior season, his numbers evened out, again averaging 14.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. His senior season he averaged 14.5, 5.0 and 2.7.

Buford was always a walking bucket with the Buckeyes, and his numbers were still very good for a guy who played with the scoring likes of Jared Sullinger, Jon Diebler, David Lighty, Deshaun Thomas, Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr.

Even though his production was solid and consistent, he never quite lived up to the hype that he came into college with; nevertheless, he had a solid OSU career.

He went undrafted in 2012 and after bouncing around in the then NBA D-League and on Summer League teams, Buford has enjoyed a successful career overseas. If the question was just about having a professional career, I would have a different answer, because Buford has had success overseas and with the Ohio State alumni team, Carmen’s Crew, in The Basketball Tournament every summer for the past seven years.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC

But, with his scoring prowess, length and athleticism, plus his natural feel for the game, I thought he would be able to carve out a role in the NBA as a rotation guy off the bench, similar to a Jamal Crawford, just not quite at that high of a level.


Which guy did you think was going to have a more successful career in the NBA?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    Deshaun Thomas (Connor)
    (34 votes)
  • 39%
    William Buford (Justin)
    (22 votes)
56 votes total Vote Now