Deshaun Thomas: The Draft Story

By Kyle Rowland on June 25, 2013 at 9:30a
Deshaun Thomas' stock has dropped, but his attitude remains upbeat.

The knocks on Deshaun Thomas’ game can be heard just as frequently as the sound of sneakers squeaking on a basketball court. He shoots too much, doesn’t give enough effort on the defensive end and is too one-dimensional, shout the critics. Those qualities – or lack thereof – may hold some truth; Thomas once said he’d prefer 30 shots a game. But one thing is also undeniable: Deshaun Thomas is a scorer.

In high school, he scored more points than all but two players in the history of the state of Indiana. For a yearlong stretch, from the 2012 NCAA Tournament to the 2013 dance, Thomas put on a shooting display that few in Ohio State history have matched. He averaged more than 20 points per game in the Buckeyes’ run to the 2012 Final Four and nearly took Ohio State back in 2013. Thomas scored a Big Ten-best 19.8 points per game during the 2012-13 season, adding 5.8 rebounds.

Still, the rumblings of an underwhelming skill set persisted. Thomas didn’t help himself at the predraft combine when test results were lackluster across the board. He registered the sixth-most body fat – 9.1 percent – and his 12.94 lane-agility test time was the slowest among 51 players.

Suddenly, Thomas dipped from a possible late first-round pick to solidly in the second round. currently projects Thomas as the 41st overall pick (11th of the second round) to Memphis while has Thomas going 48th to the Los Angeles Lakers. Other teams coveting Thomas’ services are Detroit, Orlando, Phoenix, Washington, Portland, Indiana and New York. 

Instead of fretting about his falling stock or where he might spend the next chapter of his life, Thomas continues to solider on. His workouts have consisted of the usual sharpshooting but also a dose of defense.

“Everyone knows a guy like me can score in a lot of different ways, but I’m just trying to come out here, give the effort and have fun,” he said after a workout for the Pacers.

At Ohio State, Thomas’ defense was almost nonexistent his freshman season, but he realized quickly that quality defense equaled more time on the court. As his career progressed, Thomas became a team player and developed a respectable defensive game. Assists to Aaron Craft and LaQuinton Ross brought smiles to Thomas’ face, while defensive stops prompted fist pumps. An ability to snare offensive rebounds as if basketballs were gold-plated nuggets also served Thomas well.

“Those are things from that perspective of just continuing to understand the whole phase of the game and how he can affect it,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said last season.

Said Thomas: “I’m learning to do the little things. Being a leader, playing defense, going after offensive rebounds. This game is all effort. People out there know you can score, but can you do other things? Can you grab 10 rebounds? Can you get a steal? Can you box out? Can you make the hustle plays? I’m learning that it's not just all about the scoring, it’s all about the effort.”

DraftExpress lists Thomas among the top five in points per-possession. A low turnover rate also reflects well on Thomas. But questions about his capability of defending athletic NBA players and scoring at an elite level remain.

“Everyone knows a guy like me can score in a lot of different ways, but I’m just trying to come out here, give the effort and have fun.”

Some players have an “it” factor when it comes to offense, and Thomas is one of them. He was one of those rare talents that could will his team to victory. As the Buckeyes’ only reliable scoring threat for much of last season, he was still able to create shots and knock them down consistently. But where Thomas becomes even more dangerous is as a secondary option. In large part, that’s how he became a sensation in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. And Thomas will find himself as a complementary piece wherever he lands in the NBA, which could bode well for himself and the franchise that selects him.

There were frustrating stretches for Thomas during his final season in Columbus, and he admitted part of it was due to being the top scoring option, a distinction that drew double teams his direction. He was already at a disadvantage with bigger players guarding him, but he used his speed to drive past them. The NBA will provide the opposite end of the spectrum – speedy and shifty defenders.

Six-foot-seven wings are a dime a dozen in the NBA. If there isn’t one thing you do exceptionally well, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. That’s what Thomas hopes to avoid.

“It’s just me becoming a (better) player and just knowing the game and understanding it – knowing when to make the extra pass,” he said. “Freshman year, I probably wouldn’t have made that pass. I would have jacked it up. It’s just me learning the game and becoming an impact player and knowing there are other things than just scoring. There are other things in the game of basketball.”

Statements like those are what NBA front office personnel want to hear from a rookie. When speaking to teams, Thomas made it clear he believes he can compete in the NBA and help fulfill whatever needs a team may have. When his shortcomings become a topic of conversation, Thomas is quick to assure teams he is a void filler.

Rookies and non-veterans often play different roles early in their careers. Thomas’ shooting prowess could spell the same situation for the start of his NBA life. He could come off the bench and provide instant offense with his 44.5 percent shooting percentage and 34.4 percentage from 3. Those numbers combined with his size and athleticism could make Thomas the steal of the draft. 

But teams must first take what is viewed as a risk. As is the case on draft day, there are winners and losers. Grading picks is an annual practice. Five and 10 years down the road, when the 2013 draft is reexamined, Thomas could be the one that got away for many.


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MassiveAttack's picture

Deshaun got what I would call, a raw deal.  "Talent evaluators" insisted that he would gain very little, in terms of draft stock, by staying his senior year.  "He was a proven scorer and could do little to improve more." Yet here he is getting knocked for things the NBA says are problems.

  • Poor defense
  • High body fat
  • Slow lane drill skill

These are things that could easily be worked out over the course of another college season.  I think NBA hopefuls should be allowed to go back to college if they don't violate any NCAA rules, as long as they return before draft day.  It doesn't benefit anyone if these athletes enter the league physically unprepared.

The Ohio State University - "Haters love us!"

Jordan Wagner's picture

I think the Kings at 36 could be a possibility. They interviewed him and have worked him out twice. Don't forget that Chris Jent is very familiar with DeShaun. It's a second round pick in a very weak draft. I think with Jents recommendation, Thomas will be a King. Good value for the Kings if they take him. 

Cavs worked him out but I doubt Mike Brown is seriously considering taking a tweeter that isn't a good defender. Don't look for the Cavs to draft 4 rookies anyway. Maybe a team the Cavs trade 31 and 33 to will be interested in Thomas. 

mh277907's picture

The game definitely opens up at the next level which should help the D-Train. Because most wings in the NBA are an outside scoring threat, unlike the NCAA, and due to rules limiting help-side defense, defenders are forced to stay closer to their man which opens up the top of the key and free-throw line extended areas. This is the area that Deshaun seems most comfortable and he could be a viable option in a high-low game if he ends up playing with a scoring big man. Still though, at the end of the day, you have to be able to play defense in this league especially if you want to win in the playoffs. He will have to work hard and, for God's sake, learn how to correctly take a charge!!!! That said, his positives outweigh his negatives in my mind and he will always be one of my favorites.


Michael Citro's picture

Best of luck in the draft, Tank. I'll miss your inexplicably bad shots that somehow go in anyway, as well as your "that's just me being humble" media responses.

Knarcisi's picture

I think we've seen that Deshaun is a guy that developed a lot of maturity over the past 3 years.  Some of that from the court and good coaching, and some of that from being a young father.  He has a purpose, and he wants to learn.  His attitude will take him far in life, on and off the court.  Best wishes, Deshaun.  Thanks for all you've done for us the past 3 years.

zhamilton05's picture

"Thomas will find himself as a complementary piece wherever he lands in the NBA..."
Well, not exactly. Will Deshaun have to be a top-two scorer for his future team? Unlikely. In fact, it's very possible that he hardly starts an NBA game in his career. What teams are looking at when they see DT is a creative, hybrid 3/4 scorer to pace their second unit. And in that role (think Jamal Crawford), he will be expected to score the ball for 10-20 minutes a game. And frankly, if that only brings out 2012-13 Deshaun, with his low-efficiency gunning, then it won't be enough to stick in the league. He'll have to improve his dribble, find his way to the corner for shorter 3PA's, and adequately rebound his position.
I think Thomas would make a nice addition to my Pistons as a 2nd-rd pick. They need some scoring punch off the bench.

Michael Citro's picture

I actually think DT can thrive on a team with a dynamic player (or two) that demands double teams, because if a defender leaves Tank, he'll absolutely make them pay for it. Movement without the ball will be a key in The League for Deshaun.