Only one school in the country has had a player selected in each of the past six NBA Drafts. Deshaun Thomas is hopeful that he'll extend Ohio State's streak to seven.
Tonight is the night that the former Buckeyes forward has been preparing for ever since he opted to forego his senior season of eligibility in April. Since then, Thomas has split time finishing the spring semester at Ohio State, working out in Indianapolis, and visiting NBA teams, all with the goal of being one of the 60 players who will be chosen in tonight's draft in mind.
"The process is fun. It's a blessing. There's a lot of kids wishing they could be in our shoes, so you gotta take it as a blessing and work at it," Thomas said following a workout with the Indiana Pacers. "It's been kind of challenging never knowing where you're going to end up at, but you just gotta take it as a blessing and have fun with it."
As a prospect, Thomas has been as polarizing as he was as a college players.
Despite leading the Big Ten in scoring with 19.8 points per game in the 2012-13 season, the Fort Wayne, Ind. native was knocked throughout his college career due to a perception that he was a player focused on shooting the ball, and not much else. It's not so much Thomas' game, however, that has NBA general managers questioning him as he heads into the draft, as it is what position he'll play at the professional level.
After playing power forward for the majority of his college career, the 6-foot-7, 225-pound Thomas is better suited as a small forward in the NBA, although the success of teams like the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder has made smaller lineups more attractive in recent years. The knock on Thomas is that he lacks the athleticism to play the small forward role on a consistent basis at the pro level, but the 2013 All-Big Ten selection is a firm believer that the "three" is the ideal position for him.
"I prefer the three, cause you can get out there and space the floor, take your man off the dribble. The three can score in different ways," Thomas explained. "You can score on a big guy, go around him, or if it's a smaller three, post him up. The three is where I want to play."
In an effort to become a successful small forward in the NBA, Thomas said that he's spent time studying one of the game's best.
"I model my game after Carmelo Anthony by the way he can score the ball and get open and post up little guards," Thomas said, referring to the New York Knicks star, six-time All-Star, and reigning NBA scoring champion. "I characterize myself by just knocking down shots."
While Thomas didn't exactly compare himself to Anthony, draft analysts and league executives appear less optimistic about his upside in the NBA. DraftExpress.com's most recent mock draft projects Thomas to by the Los Angeles Lakers with the draft's 48th overall pick, while NBADraft.net has him going 41st overall to the Memphis Grizzlies, while comparing the former Buckeye to seven-year NBA veteran Ryan Gomes, who averaged 10.2 points per game over the course of his career.
Although there doesn't appear to be a consensus on when and where Thomas will land tonight, he remains confident that he'll fit in with any team that gives him a chance, and helps Ohio State extend its ongoing streak of draft picks.
"I see myself fitting as a great scorer. Competing, fun, great character, and willing to win all about," Thomas said. "That's what it's about in this league: having the great character and winning ball games."
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