Deshaun Thomas emerged as one of the nation's most prolific scorers in his junior year, averaging nearly 20 points per game for Ohio State.
Despite his production, there are many questions being asked as to how his collegiate success will translate to the next level. Thomas will have to adapt to a new role as a complementary scorer in the pros.
Some of Thomas' physical tools will work against him when making the transition to the pros. Most scoring wings are driven by their athleticism, but not Thomas. He's forced to rely on touch, strength and instincts.
Thomas lacks the explosiveness that allows most wings to get easy buckets slashing off the ball and getting to the basket. He has an excellent feel for the game and has a number of tricks up his sleeve in terms of scoring in the lane. For the most part, though, Thomas plays under the rim, which lowers his ceiling as a scorer.
The most troubling aspect of Thomas' physical limitations is their effect on the defensive end. He doesn't have the foot speed to cover quick wings on the perimeter and the size and length to body up with 4s down low. Thomas' effort level suffers with regard to intensity and closing out on shooters.
At 6'7'', the Buckeyes star has the size to play the small forward position at the next level, but the combo-forward label he previously had has worn thin.
Thomas is a shot-maker. It sounds so simple, yet it perfectly describes what will be his most valuable asset in the pros. Whether it's from 26 feet away on the wing, 12 feet out on the baseline, floating it off one foot or stepping back in the mid-range, he knows how to put the ball in the basket.
Here's a telling highlight clip from a game against South Carolina in which Thomas went for 30 points. Practically every basket is made from a different spot on the floor, and he takes a different route to get each one.
Thomas went to work by spotting up from downtown, pulling up off the dribble, making short jumpers in the lane and getting tip-ins at the rim.
Thomas' touch is as soft as a feather, which helps neutralize his athletic limitations, particularly when there's traffic at the rim.
Watch the first two plays in which Thomas demonstrates touch off one foot that allows him to sail the ball over defenders.
The 21-year-old understands how to find the space needed to give him room to set up and release. Sometimes it takes one dribble, sometimes it takes two and a hesitation.
Thomas isn't an isolation scorer, but in the flow and rhythm of the offense, he's usually decisive with his first move immediately after he gets the ball.
Instincts can't be taught, and that's one of Thomas' biggest strengths. His overall feel for the rim and his defender's positioning allow him to adjust and make timely maneuvers. At times, basketball calls for improvisation; you have to make moves or shots that you don't practice.
Thomas always knows where he is, where the rim is, how his defender is guarding him and what he needs to do in order to get the shot off cleanly.
Potential Red Flags
Even though Thomas averaged 19.8 points per game this past season, he needed 15.8 shots per game to get there. In over 35 minutes per game, Thomas only got to the line 4.6 times, a low number for a volume scorer who sees a ton of offensive touches.
Another red flag has to do with one of his perceived strengths. Thomas is known for being a knock-down shooter who can light up the nets and score in bunches. The problem is, in three years at Ohio State, Thomas never shot 35 percent or above from downtown. He made almost two per game in the 2012-13 season, but needed 5.6 attempts per game to get there. He shot 34.4 percent as a junior, 34.5 percent as a sophomore and 32.8 percent as a freshman. These aren't the numbers of a long-range specialist at any level.
If Thomas can't convince coaches he can be a reliable, consistent three-point threat, he could have trouble finding a spot in an NBA rotation.
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