Above all, Ohio State Buckeyes forward Deshaun Thomas is a scorer by breed and by trade. He put up 15.6 shots per game as a junior in 2012-13 and 5.6 of those were from three-point range. While the efficiency might not be there, Thomas’ 19.8 points per game led college basketball’s best conference in scoring. And though his percentages decreased in the limelight as Thomas took the lead following Jared Sullinger’s departure from OSU, he proved a plenty capable first option for coach Thad Matta. Thomas loves to score – love being the key word – and that is his niche role at the next level. If nothing else, Thomas is as confident a scorer as any in this draft.
But it’s his play earlier in his career that could shed light on how he projects as an NBA prospect. He’s an underrated off-the-ball scorer and has the ability to finish in the paint off cuts. He is a great catch-and-shoot jump shooter who could fit well into three-point-happy offenses and showed in his first two years with the Buckeyes that he can play off the ball — he is at his best not being the first option.
Despite being only 6-foot-7 in shoes, Thomas has a 6-foot-10 wingspan which somewhat makes up for his lack of size.
Thomas is the definition of a tweener, and the defensive end is the biggest cause for concern in that regard. His 5.9 rebounds per game could be affected by how much Thomas floats around the perimeter, but according to Draft Express, Thomas was last in the top-100 power forwards in defensive rebounding, meaning his own offense had little to do with the poor numbers.
His career could also hinge heavily upon his ability to play defense with the lack of explosiveness for a small forward and a frame that’s too small for a power forward. Effort might make the biggest difference here – Thomas’ leadership improved from sophomore to junior seasons, but there’s still room to grow.
Thomas’ size hurts his abilities on both ends. On offense, it’s a question as to whether he can put the ball on the floor to get to the hoop, as Thomas is limited in how he can get open shots. A lack of explosiveness will hamper how much Thomas can score in the paint with the ball in his hands as well.
If he’s more than a jump shooter in the NBA, the former Buckeye will have to prove it.
To find success, Thomas must prove he’s an elite-level scorer who could go off in restricted minutes. He’s not quite tall enough to be tossed in the discussion of long power forwards who can shoot over anyone, nor is he athletic enough to continually get to the basket and finish, so the development of a pump fake, one dribble and shoot move will be key to his professional success.
In short, he’ll have to show that shot selection is either a strong part of his basketball IQ – or that he’s so good of a shooter that a team will be able to give him a green light at all times.
How he would fit with the Suns
At this point, Thomas would have to make a big leap up the draft boards to the No. 30 spot for the Suns or fall to them at 57. However, he comes from a winning background with the Buckeyes. Thomas doesn’t project as a starter but in time could turn into instant offense off the bench, good for 10-12 points in limited minutes. For a Suns squad that has too many hybrid forwards, maybe it doesn’t make sense unless Phoenix moves either of the Morris twins,or . Then again, the team’s affinity for stretch 4s certainly makes Thomas’ skillset worth a great deal, especially if the Suns believe he can become a consistent shooter in the NBA.
And 1 … A second-rounder to consider
Peyton Siva. Yes, he’s undersized and he might not be an NBA point guard. But the success of little guys like Ty Lawson, Nate Robinson, Isaiah Thomas and J.J. Barea has shown over the last couple of years that a team can always use a hyper backup point guard to change the dynamic of a second unit. Siva has the leadership qualities and background at Louisville and is an underrated athlete to boot – even if he got “fouled” by Trey Burke in the national title game. Like a small running back in the NFL, the change-of-pace point guard has a place in the NBA if Siva can develop in a couple of years as the Suns figure out their current point guard situation.