When Greg Oden was selected at the top of the 2007 NBA draft, it marked the beginning of an impressive run for Ohio State in sending players to the next level. Nine Buckeyes have heard their names called on draft night the past seven years, including seven first-rounders and three lottery picks.
As the 2014 draft played out, though, neither Aaron Craft nor LaQuinton Ross was selected, ending the streak. Craft has received summer league invites from the Philadelphia 76ers and Golden State Warriors, and will be playing in both the Orlando and Las Vegas leagues. Ross, who many view as the most likely non-drafted Big Ten player to make an NBA roster, will suit up for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Ohio State's draft streak is a testament to the kind of talent Thad Matta and his staff have brought to Columbus, and the possibility for a new streak beginning in 2015 is fairly strong. One way-too-early mock draft has three Buckeyes being selected next June, and the potential for a fourth is present.
The strongest candidates to be drafted are the three remaining members of the much-hyped 2011 recruiting class, Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott, and Amir Williams. While each has largely fallen short of the expectations many had when they first donned the scarlet and grey, the senior trio also possess the kind of athleticism that translates to the NBA and can propel players up draft boards.
Scott, a former McDonald's All-American, has been a Big Ten All-Defensive team performer the past two seasons, but still not has not proven that he can consistently knock down shots. The Alpharetta, Georgia native averaged 7.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game during his junior campaign. With Craft gone, those numbers should improve, as Scott will be the team's primary ball handler.
Williams, himself a McDonald's All-American coming out of high school, has also failed to develop as an offensive player during his tenure in Columbus, and has not come close to reaching his potential as a rebounder and rim protector. Still, at 6'11", he has the kind of length and mobility that teams need from their big men in an NBA game that is continually ramping up its pace. Williams averaged 7.8 points and 5.8 boards as a junior, and shot 60 percent from the floor.
Thompson is easily the most athletic of the bunch. At 6'7", the wiry Chicago product can defend multiple positions, a valuable trait among NBA GMs. Much like Scott, Thompson has not proven to be a consistent perimeter threat. Though the senior can jump out of the gym and seems to make a highlight reel play at least once a game, he needs to become a more complete offensive player and improve his rebounding if he is to make the jump to the pros.
In addition to Ohio State's seniors, a newcomer also has a chance of being drafted a year from now. Incoming freshman D'Angelo Russell, believed by some to be the best pure scorer in the class nationally, is an elite playmaker with length and athleticism. A McDonald's All-American as well, Russell can handle both guard positions and flat-out shoot the ball. A strong first year for the Buckeyes could propel the Florida native to one-and-done status, just as five other players have done in the Matta era.
In a year in which five Big Ten players were selected in the first round, the conference's best showing since 1990, it is an oddity that Ohio State was shut out. After seven straight drafts in which a Buckeye was selected, the program has become a reliable feeder for the NBA. As Matta continues his strong recruiting, though, it is unlikely that Ohio State's draft drought will last very long.