Thad Matta has a rich history of putting Buckeyes into the NBA and watching them succeed for some time afterwards. Mike Conley, Kosta Koufos, D’Angelo Russell, Jared Sullinger and Evan Turner are all currently representing the program well at the next level. So who is next in line for Ohio State?
Looking up and down the roster, it looks like there may be a few Buckeyes with the tools to be drafted. Marc Loving is a rising senior and will be entered in the 2017 NBA Draft pool. For him, the question is whether or not he will show the NBA enough this upcoming season to actually get drafted. As a prototype 3&D wing that the modern NBA covets, Loving’s D will need to show marked improvement in the coming season.
Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate are two rising juniors with NBA potential. Bates-Diop is a player many experts have in their 2017 NBA mock drafts, including DraftExpress. He has the luxury of either leaving after next season or staying for another year to develop his game even more. He is a player who works hard on being the best he can be, adding 45 pounds after his freshman season so he could bulk up and play the interior role asked of him. That kind of work ethic is an intangible skill that scouts are always seeking out.
Tate is less of a sure thing for the draft. He has the athleticism and scoring ability that is highly valued, but at 6'4" is undersized for a forward. That said, his size does not keep him off the offensive glass where he is relentless. He needs to work more on his three point shot, because developing that will round out his game and make him a more intriguing prospect.
JaQuan Lyle had an impressive freshman campaign, but he is presumably a few years away from being drafted. He had a stuffed box score, averaging over four assists and rebounds per game. His usage was extremely high last season, and he had to play a lot of point guard which is not his primary position. If Matta can provide Lyle with a few more opportunities to play off the ball, his efficiency could increase and draft stock could skyrocket.
On the recruiting trail, incoming freshman forward Derek Funderburk is a 2016 ESPN Top 100 player, but the opportunities may not be there in his first season. Their frontcourt is pretty loaded, and until a few of the guys in front of Funderburk in the depth chart leave Columbus, he will need to wait his turn to prove himself.
Time will only tell when the next Buckeye will be drafted, but it could be as soon as 2017. With a loaded draft class in 2017, it seems unlikely many Ohio State players would leave early so Loving may be their only chance of a draft selection that year. In the future draft classes it is probably too difficult to predict which Buckeyes will head to the draft when, but one thing is for sure: Thad Matta won’t have to wait long to hear Adam Silver call the next name in his long line of Buckeye draftees.