Buckeyes in the NBA Playoffs: Can Anyone Get a Ring?

By Mike Young on April 21, 2014 at 11:00 am

Follow any Ohio State basketball-related social media account and you'll inevitably see a tidbit about Thad Matta's draft history.

In the last seven seasons, at least one Ohio State player has been selected in the NBA draft. With any luck, LaQuinton Ross will make it eight straight, and earn a shot at being the seventh Buckeye on an active NBA roster.

Of the six Ohio State players now in the NBA, four are currently competing in the NBA Playoffs. The playoffs might not seem like much of an accomplishment, considering the 38-44 Atlanta Hawks occupy the Eastern Conference's final seed. 

Still, it's a prominent stage and Ohio State has a few players destined to make an impact, beginning with one of the Western Conference's top point guards:

Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies

With a significant jump in his scoring average and continuing to play at an All-Defensive Team level, Conley continued to establish himself as one of the NBA's dominant point guards.

Due to injuries, lack of other options and added freedom under new head coach David Joerger, Conley had a career year. He averaged a career-high 17.2 points per game and shot 45 percent from the field. While his steals dipped below his career average, he didn't always have the benefit of playing next to Tony Allen or in front of dominant big Marc Gasol, due to their various health issues. 

The Grizz snuck into the playoffs, a strange thing to say after finishing 18 games over .500. At the turn of the calendar year, however, Memphis was only 13-17 and had fading hopes of making the playoffs.

Unfortunately for them, a 50-32 record is only good enough for the Western Conference's seventh seed. That means a first-round matchup with Oklahoma City. While they did knock the Thunder out of the playoffs in last year's Western Conference Semifinals, a real coming-out party for Conley, this year's OKC squad has a healthy Russell Westbrook. Game one hinged on Zach Randolph's foul issues, showing the Grizzlies don't have the firepower to repeat last year's deep, playoff run and, also, upset the Thunder.

Prediction: First round loss to Thunder, in 5 games. 

Kosta Koufos, Memphis Grizzlies

When I said Memphis doesn't have the "firepower," I include Koufos in that assessment. 

I also begrudgingly include Koufos in this article, as his NIT title performance doesn't inspire the same sort of nostalgia as the other three guys on this list. Apparently, his former Ohio State teammates felt a similar distaste for him. 

In Mark Titus' book "Don't Put Me In, Coach" Titus consistently hammered Koufos for his selfish attitude and NBA aspirations, which took away from the team's focus. Plus, his anti-drinking crusade forced Matt Terwilliger to dump a beer on Koufos' head.

Anyhow, he's stuck around an NBA roster for the last seven seasons, his latest being with the Grizzlies. Injuries to Gasol and Randolph forced Koufos into the starting lineup 22 times. In 80 games, he averaged 6.4 points and 5.2 rebounds.

With a healthy Memphis squad and facing a smaller lineup, Koufos played limited minutes in their opening game against the Thunder. If Gasol and Randolph combine for 8 fouls again, Koufos might see more than 5 minutes.

Prediction: First round loss to Thunder, in 5 games.

Greg Oden, Miami Heat

If you know anything about Greg Oden's career, for him to be on an active roster is a miracle. 

He still battled back spasms towards the end of the regular season, but didn't suffer a crippling knee injury. In his first action since the 2009-10 season, Oden played in 23 games and even started in six. 

His major outburst was a six point, three rebound, two block performance against the Cavaliers. Overall, a 2.9 point and 2.3 rebound per game performance is not indicative of the progress he's made. Just to see him on the court is something that was nearly unimaginable four years ago.

Unfortunately, he's suiting up for Miami. Regardless, the hope is Oden can earn more minutes and play a vital role for them (at which point, Heat fans casual observers will realize he's not LeBron's father and there's a reason why he's been sitting on the bench the entire season).

The idea that he can make a meaningful contribution to the Heat this season is, to be kind, overly-optimistic. Against a team with a loaded front court, such as the Bobcats, Oden's size would be valuable. Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen aren't nearly physical enough to handle Al Jefferson or, should they get that far, the Pacers' Roy Hibbert. 

Prediction: NBA Finals loss to Spurs, in 7 games. 

Evan Turner, Indiana Pacers

He's as beloved as any Buckeye basketball player in recent memory, but the adulation for Turner doesn't extend into the professional ranks.

Turner is now a symbol for the Pacers' collapse – although they still held on to the East's No. 1 seed. Since acquiring him from the 76ers in a trade-deadline deal, Indiana has gone 14-14, a far cry from the blistering, near .700 ball they played prior to his acquisition. 

Clearly, it's not all his fault, but don't tell that to Pacers fans. Since arriving in Indianapolis, however, he's only scoring 7.1 points per game and shooting 41 percent. For a team that was struggling to put the ball in the basket in every imaginable way, I guess they expected more out of Turner? That's their fault for embracing unnatural expectations for him. 

At one point, the Pacers gave Ohio State the best shot at producing a contributing, NBA champion. Now? Not so much.

The playoffs only serve to compound Indiana's issues, and game 1 against the Hawks went as poorly as can be expected. Paul George played well, at least compared to his past few months, but unexpected defensive issues gave Atlanta the win. Jeff Teague had his way with every Pacer, including Turner. 

Once considered Miami's only threat, Indiana is now struggling with a team that finished below .500 in the regular season.

Prediction: Second round loss to Wizards, in six games.

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