This week’s focus will be on Ohio State small-forward, Deshaun Thomas. The 6’7” junior inherited the Buckeyes’ primary scoring option from Jared Sullinger and has responded, leading the Big Ten in scoring at 20.0 points per game. Dating back to his prep days in Ft. Wayne, where he finished his career as the 3rd leading scorer in Indiana high school history, Thomas has always had a nose for scoring, rarely passing-up a shot he didn’t like. A diverse scoring machine, he is able to score beyond the three-point arc, off the dribble, and on offensive rebounding put-backs.
During his first two seasons in Columbus, Thomas has always been viewed as instant offense. He led the Buckeyes in scoring in several games last season and finished second on the team with 15.9 points per game. While his offense has never been questioned, there were concerns about his defense and floor game. Despite being a solid athlete, Thomas had not been a good on-ball defender, typically drawing the opposition’s weakest frontcourt player. To his credit and according to head coach Thad Matta, Thomas has finally embraced playing defense, showing much better footwork and using his physical skills to guard opponents closer. Always a tenacious offensive rebounder (hungry for put-back points), he has improved his ability to grab defensive boards, and is averaging 6.8 rebounds per game this season.
Perhaps the biggest improvement in Thomas’ game has been his passing. Ridiculed by most Buckeye fans for rarely passing, he has shown a greater willingness to distribute to teammates beyond the routine half-court passing. Thomas has been very adept at dishing of the dribble-drive with good touch this season and even has a positive assist-to-turnover ratio.
Thomas can score on opponents in a variety of ways, and that will be his ticket to the NBA. He has a very quick release that allows him to get the ball up quickly on the catch-and-shoot. Currently, he is shooting 41% from three-point land, and is very much a rhythm shooter, getting on streaks where he literally cannot be stopped. The five-to-seven-foot jump-hook, which has always been a part of his arsenal, has been much more effective, and can now make that move on either side of the rim. Of course, he never fails to get his share of put-backs off of missed shots. Thomas also has a knack for getting to the free-throw line and has even improved his FT% from last season (75 % to 86%).
Thomas is rated as one of the top small forwards in the country and figures to go in the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft. His offensive game easily translates to the NBA, and with the improvements he has made to his defense and passing, he may be able to have value beyond putting the ball in the basket.
Big Ten Power Rankings
1. Michigan 2. Indiana 3. Ohio State 4. Illinois 5. Minnesota 6. Michigan State 7. Iowa 8. Wisconsin 9. Nebraska 10. Northwestern 11. Purdue 12. Penn State
Deric McKamey scouts the Midwest and covers the Big Ten for NetScouts Basketball.