How Eight Former Ohio State Basketball Players Performed in the NBA During the 2022-23 Season

By Griffin Strom on May 24, 2023 at 8:35 am
Mike Conley, D'Angelo Russell
Gary A. Vasquez – USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 NBA Finals begin in eight days, but there will be no former Buckeyes on either roster.

D’Angelo Russell was the final former Ohio State basketball player left standing in the playoffs entering the week, but the Los Angeles Lakers fell to the Denver Nuggets in a two-point home loss Monday as Russell and company were swept in the Western Conference Finals.

Still, seven Buckeyes played in at least seven games for an NBA franchise in 2022-23. With the season effectively over for the scarlet and gray contingent, we’re taking a look at how each of their years went. From Russell’s playoff run to Malaki Branham’s impressive rookie campaign for the San Antonio Spurs, another rock-solid year for Mike Conley and a career-best season from Keita Bates-Diop, here’s a recap of the season that was for eight total NBA players that once donned the Block O.

​​G D’Angelo Russell

  • Team: Los Angeles Lakers (43-39)
  • Year: Nine
  • Stats: 17.8 PPG, 46.9 FG%, 39.6 3FG%, 6.2 APG
  • Postseason: Lost in conference finals (4-0, Nuggets)

The former Ohio State star guard and No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft was reunited with the team that drafted him as Russell was traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Lakers before the trade deadline. After averaging nearly 18 points and more than six assists per game as a fourth-year member of the Minnesota roster, Russell’s numbers hardly dipped in LA, where he put up 17.4 points and 6.1 dimes in 17 regular-season appearances. 

Russell also helped the Lakers climb from 13th place in the Western Conference at the All-Star Break to seventh place at the end of the regular season, ultimately winning their play-in game to earn a spot in the playoffs. Russell and the Lakers beat the Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors in back-to-back series to draw a matchup with the top-seeded Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, but were swept in four games. 

Russell started the first 15 games of the Lakers’ playoff run but was benched in Monday’s final game of the season, in which he scored just four points in 15 minutes. Russell averaged only 13.3 points per game in the playoffs compared to his 17.8 points per game across the regular season.

G Mike Conley

  • Team: Minnesota Timberwolves (42-40)
  • Year: 16
  • Stats: 11.9 PPG, 42.8 FG%, 38.5 3FG%, 6.7 APG
  • Postseason: Lost in first round (4-1, Nuggets)

Traded from the Utah Jazz, with whom he spent three-and-a-half seasons, midway through the year, Ohio State’s longest-tenured NBA player averaged at least 10 points and four assists per game for the 15th consecutive year. 

Scoring 14 points per game in 24 appearances for the Timberwolves, Conley helped his new team to the eighth seed in the Western Conference by the end of the regular season. Minnesota lost its first play-in game to the Lakers, but bounced back with a blowout victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder to earn a spot in the first round of the playoffs. However, Conley and company only lasted five games as the top-seeded Nuggets took the series in April. Conley scored 19 points in the Timberwolves’ lone win over Denver. 

Conley’s 30.5 minutes per game were his most in four seasons, and he registered a career-high 6.7 assists per game in his 16th season in the league.

G Malaki Branham

  • Team: San Antonio Spurs (22-60)
  • Year: One
  • Stats: 10.2 PPG, 44 FG%, 30.2 3FG%, 2.7 RPG
  • Postseason: N/A

The Spurs didn’t find much overall team success on the hardwood this season, but the performance of its 2022 first-round draft selection was a bright spot for the franchise. 

After a relatively slow start, Branham came on strong before the All-Star break, putting up 18.1 points per game on 51.8% shooting and 41.3% from 3-point range in an eight-game stretch. The former Buckeye didn’t maintain that pace for the rest of the season but got hot again late, averaging 16.1 points and 3.6 rebounds in the final nine games of the year. Branham started just five games before February, but from Feb. 3 on, he started in 28 of his final 29 appearances. 

At just 19 years old, Branham finished the season as the NBA’s 10th-leading scorer among all rookies with an average of 10.2 points per contest. Branham scored at least 20 points on 10 occasions, including a career-high 27 against Detroit on Feb. 10.

F Keita Bates-Diop

  • Team: San Antonio Spurs (22-60)
  • Year: Five
  • Stats: 9.7 PPG, 50.8 FG%, 39.4 3FG%, 3.7 RPG
  • Postseason: N/A

Playing alongside a fellow former Buckeye in Branham, Bates-Diop enjoyed the best season of his NBA career by several metrics. 

Before 2022-23, Bates-Diop had never played more than 59 games in a season and had never started more than 14 games. He topped both previous bests this year, appearing in 67 games for the Spurs and starting 42. Bates-Diop also posted career-highs in scoring average (9.7), assists per game (1.5), steals (0.7), field-goal percentage (50.8%), 3-point shooting (39.4%), free-throw percentage (79.3%) and average minutes played (21.7). 

While Bates-Diop’s success came in a year in which his team tied for the worst record in the Western Conference, there’s little doubt he was the most improved former Buckeye across the league in 2022-23.

G Duane Washington Jr.

  • Team: Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks (G League: Westchester Knicks)
  • Year: Two
  • Stats: 7.9 PPG, 36.7 FG%, 36.3FG%, 2 APG
  • Postseason: Knicks lost in conference semifinals (4-2, Heat)

After scoring 9.9 points per game as an undrafted rookie with the Indiana Pacers, Washington didn’t have quite as much success with the Phoenix Suns to start year two. In 31 games, Washington averaged only two fewer points per game in nearly eight fewer minutes than he did in 2021-22, but saw his shooting percentages dip across the board. 

By the start of February, Washington was waived for the second time in seven months. Washington signed a two-way contract with the Knicks on Feb. 28, but never appeared in a game for New York in 2022-23. In four games with New York’s G League affiliate team, the Westchester Knicks, Washington averaged 20.8 points and 3.5 assists in 28.8 minutes per game, shooting 42.4% from the field and 36.8% from 3-point range.

F Jae’Sean Tate

  • Team: Houston Rockets (22-60)
  • Year: Three
  • Stats: 9.1 PPG, 48 FG%, 28.3 3FG%, 3.8 RPG
  • Postseason: N/A

Tate’s third season with the Rockets was stunted by injury, resulting in the worst numbers of his NBA career thus far. Tate played in just 20 games before the All-Star break and only 11 thereafter, starting just seven games in total after logging a combined 135 starts across his first two seasons.

In nearly six fewer minutes per game than he averaged across his first two years in the league, Tate turned in his lowest scoring output (9.1), rebounding average (3.8), field-goal percentage (28.3%) and 3-point shooting clip (28.3%) of his young career. The Rockets didn’t have a banner year, either, as they tied the Spurs for the worst record in the Western Conference.

F E.J. Liddell

  • Team: New Orleans Pelicans (42-40)
  • Year: One
  • Stats: N/A
  • Postseason: N/A

The decorated former Buckeye forward’s rookie season in the NBA never got off the ground after Liddell suffered a torn ACL in a Summer League contest last July. The No. 41 overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft, who signed a two-way contract with the Pelicans in October, didn’t play a game in his first year.

F Micah Potter

  • Team: Utah Jazz (37-45), G League: Salt Lake City Stars
  • Year: Two
  • Stats: 7 GP, 3.4 PPG, 2.3 RPG
  • Postseason: N/A

A veteran of 59 games in two seasons at Ohio State before finishing his college career with Wisconsin, Potter appeared in a career-high seven games while on a two-way contract with the Utah Jazz in his second year in the NBA. Potter may have logged more experience had he not suffered an elbow injury that required surgery in late January. Potter played a career-high 21 minutes in Utah’s penultimate game of the 2022-23 campaign and put up 10 points in a win over the Nuggets. The 6-foot-8 big man also played in 17 games for the Salt Lake City Stars of the G League, averaging 15.1 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.

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