Since the passing of Y2K and ensuing nuclear war -- Oh, that didn't happen? I need to stop relying on The Terminator for historical background -- Ohio State has produced 10 NBA players, with varying levels of success.
Michael Redd, taken in the second round of the 2000 NBA Draft, sits atop the throne as the best Buckeye pro since Clark Kellogg in the mid-80's. Redd was an All-Star in 2004, finished in the top-10 in the NBA in scoring four times and was selected to the All-NBA Third team for his play during the 2003-2004 regular season. In both 2009 and 2010 Redd's season was frustratingly cut short by a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee. Redd never fully recovered, and retired from a career sadly filled with more "what-ifs" than "wows" just before the 2013 season.
There are six Buckeyes currently residing in the NBA. How have they held up after leaving Columbus, Ohio?
(Note: These players are ranked from best to worst, in descending order, according to how I presently view them)
1. Mike Conley, PG -- Drafted 4th overall by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2007.
Conley is in the midst of the most successful stretch of his career. The 26-year old floor general can currently be found waging war with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Conley lead the Grizzlies on a desperate late season run to secure the seventh seed and a trip to the postseason for the fourth consecutive year.
Conley's numbers have always been fairly consistent and somewhat boring, aside from his gaudy steals numbers. This season finally saw him transform into a more aggressive offensive player, averaging a career-high 14.1 field goal attempts per game. His aggression hasn't cost him any effectiveness, as Conley actually shot the highest percentage (45%) of his seven-year career.
Conley is one of the best defenders at the point guard position in the league. There are few point guards truly dedicated to exertion on the defensive end, but Conley is just as concerned with shutting down opposing pick and rolls as he is with running them. His defense has always been crucial on a Grizzlies squad that plays a slow, black-and-blue brand of basketball.
The elevation of Conley's offensive game has turned him into one of the best point guards in the league. Conley ranked seventh out of all point guards with 8.2 win shares this season (which means he was worth 8.2 wins to the Grizzlies over the course of the season).
When Conley and Oden left Ohio State (Daequan Cook, who is currently balling out in the Euroleague, was also part of that class) in the spring of 2007, it would have taken plenty of drinks and maybe a little cash to convince anyone the point guard would have the better career. Sadly, big men's knees are always an uncertain proposition and Oden's just so happened to be constructed out of glass. While Oden has spent years rehabbing only to find himself glued to the Heat bench in business suits instead of warmup suits, Conley has blossomed into a top-10 point guard.
At only 26-years-old, the young southpaw's story is filled with unwritten chapters. As long as he avoids any Red Wedding's, it appears Conley will retain the title of best pro Buckeye for years to come.
2. Jared Sullinger, PF -- Drafted 21st overall by the Boston Celtics in 2012.
The fact that Sullinger is ranked second has more to do with the sad state of Ohio State basketball in the NBA than it does his skill set.
This isn't to say that Sullinger is a bad player. He's only 22 and stuck on a Celtics team in full rebuild mode. He reminds me a lot of a younger Carlos Boozer with a less polished offensive game. Sullinger uses his derriere like a plow, clearing ample space to snag rebounds, especially on the offensive end. Sullinger ranked seventh in the NBA in offensive rebound percentage this year, ahead of seven-footers Dwight Howard and Tyson Chandler.
Sullinger is undersized for a power forward, which is always going to cause problems for him on the defensive end and in the low post on offense. He shot only 42 percent this year, a terrible number, especially for a player who conducts his business in the post. Much of that has to do with the the roster the Celtics trotted out past year. As Sullinger improves his faceup game he should become a far more effective offensive threat.
Right now, the most pressing concern for Sullinger is improving his conditioning. This is a contract year, and may decide the route Sullinger finds himself traveling in the years to come. Coming into camp in shape and showing an ability to play 28-32 minutes a game consistently is going to be critical for Sullinger's future as a starter in the NBA.
3. Evan Turner, SG/SF -- Drafted 2nd overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2010.
Four years into his professional career, it's still difficult to pinpoint what exactly Evan Turner is. He was drafted ahead of DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, Paul George, Larry Sanders, Eric Bledose, Avery Bradley and Gordon Hayward; you'd be challenged to find anyone making a case for Turner over any of them.
Turner put up highly inflated numbers on a historically bad 76ers team this season. A mid-season trade to the Pacers appears to have had an adverse effect on the team, as they have struggled mightily since his arrival.
Turner shoots poorly, and he shoots often. He's paid about as much attention to developing his jumper as Donald Sterling did to the Civil RIghts Movement.
The mercurial combo-guard is a capable passer and ball-handler, who often finds himself making incompetent plays. Not once in his career has Turner produced a positive offensive win share total. At this point in his career, it would not be unjust to deem Turner the latest in a long line of No. 2 flops.
Turner will be a free agent this summer, and many speculated Larry Bird brought him in as a possible on-the-cheap replacement for Lance Stephenson. That's becoming a less viable option with every disastrous playoff game the Pacers churn out. At only 25 years old Turner still possesses upside, especially as a sixth man. Despite his natural attributes, Turner's attitude and lack of true development might render him a basketball nomad for the remainder of his career.
4. Kosta Koufos, C -- Drafted 23rd overall by the Utah Jazz in 2008.
Kosta Kofous has had a hard time finding a steady home in the NBA. In six seasons Kofous has played for five teams, filling all manner of role. He's been everything from a tenth man to an everyday starter. The man has proven his adaptability, and his fate may ultimately be that of a journeyman.
Kofous currently plays alongside Conley on the Grizzlies, albeit with a far lesser role. Kofous is decent around the basket and has a propensity for grabbing offensive rebounds. There will always be a place for competent 7-footers in the NBA, and Kofous is just that.
His future is most likely that of a backup center, much like he has been for Marc Gasol this season. He is a detriment against faster teams, but can be of use when opponents go big. The gravitationally challenged Kofous will never be mistaken for Serge Ibaka or Dwight Howard, but he is a solid defender unafraid to throw his body around.
5. Byron Mullens, C/PF -- Drafted 24th overall by the Dallas Mavericks in 2009.
This list has taken a dark, dark turn. It's difficult to pronounce Byron Mullens a legitimate NBA center. He's a 7-footer who spends his time 23 feet away from the hoop on offense, hoping for a chance to jack an ill-advised three. His defense is offensive.
Fifty-three percent of Mullens' shots this year were three-point attempts; Dirk Nowitzki, the greatest shooting big man of all-time, took 40 percent of his shots behind the arc this season. Mullens' unwavering commitment to jacking three's is both commendable and preposterous.
The only reason Mullens ended up getting playing time after the Clippers traded him to the 76ers is because Philly was attempting to be an NBA D-League team; Mullens fit the bill.
Mullens is in the league because he's 7-feet tall and can make it from one end of the court to the other without tripping over his giant, awkward legs and breaking his face. Believe me, he only barely does that.
If the last player on this list wasn't a decaying old sycamore tree filled with sadness instead of sap, Mullens would be dead last.
6. Greg Oden, C -- Drafted 1st overall by the Portland Trailblazers in 2007.
Note: Oden played 82 games combined from 2008-2013
We all know the story of Greg Oden. Touted as Bill Russell incarnate, Oden was the most hyped draft prospect since Lebron James. His entire career has been decimated by injuries to the Achilles' heel of big men; knees.
The gate to greatness has been barred to Oden since microfracture surgery stripped him of his rookie season in 2007. No one will ever know what Oden could have been, but he will continue to be water cooler fodder for hoop heads while remaining one of the greatest sports mysteries of all-time.