NBA Buckeyes to Begin Season
The ball has officially tipped in the NBA, and Ohio State Hoops has more representation now than ever. The Buckeyes are represented by a variety of different players in different stages of their careers. Let's dive into what former Buckeyes will be taking the NBA floor this season.
#0 D'Angelo Russell
Current Team: Minnesota Timberwolves
Born: Feb. 23, 1996 (26 years old)
Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky
Height: 6'4" (193cm)
Weight: 193 (88kg)
D'Angelo Russell, also known as DLo, is the starting point guard for the Minnesota Timberwolves. The 6'4" guard from Louisville, Kentucky, enters his 9th year in the NBA. DLo was selected with the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers after playing one season at the Ohio State University. After his rookie season, DLo was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team with the Lakers in 2016. He was traded to the Brooklyn Nets, where he began to make a name for himself. In his second year with the Nets, DLo turned into "the guy" for them as he led the team in scoring and was selected to his first All-Star game in 2019. In the 2019 off-season, the All-Star was moved via a sign and trade to the Golden State Warriors. Playing alongside one of the game's best and most decorated point guards, Stephen Curry caused DLo to move to a two-guard off-ball role for the first time in his career and averaged a career-best 23.6 points per game. At the 2020 trade deadline, a great opportunity came about where DLo could play with one of his childhood friends and play a leading role. The Minnesota Timberwolves made the trade and added many young star pieces around him over the years. DLo and his team have big expectations for this year. D'Angelo Russell is now playing his third year with the Timberwolves, the longest time he has spent with any team since entering the NBA.
#11 Mike Conley Jr.
Current Team: Utah Jazz
Born: Oct. 11, 1987 (35 years old)
Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana
Height: 6'1" (185cm)
Weight: 175 (79kg)
Mike Conley Jr. is the starting point guard for the Utah Jazz. The 6'1" guard from Indianapolis, Indiana enters his 16th season in the NBA. Conley was selected with the 4th overall pick by the Memphis Grizzles in the 2007 NBA Draft after just one season with the Ohio State Buckeyes. Conley spent 12 seasons with the Grizzles where he became the team's all-time leading scorer. The former McDonald's All-American made the NBA All-Defensive Second Team (2013), is a 3x NBA Sportsmanship Award (2014, 2016, 2019), and NBA Teammate of the Year winner (2019) during his time with the Grizzles. He will go down as one of the best Grizzles of all time. Conley was traded to the Utah Jazz in 2019 where he became the lead point guard for one of the best teams in the NBA. After finishing the season with the best record in the NBA West, the Jazz failed to make any real run to the NBA finals which led them to disband their team this past off-season. Conley now leads a team of young guys as the Utah Jazz look to build for the future and could be in trade rumors as the season progresses.
#8 Jae'Sean Tate
Current Team: Houston Rockets
Born: Oct. 28, 1995 (26 years old)
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
Height: 6'5" (196cm)
Weight: 230 (104kg)
Jae'Sean Tate has taken the road that not many of traveled. His journey to the NBA is one of the most unique stories that you will find. Tate was not drafted and had little opportunity to prove to the NBA that he was worth a roster spot after his college career concluded at Ohio State. Tate began his career overseas with the Antwerp Giants, a professional basketball club based in Antwerp, Belgium. With a population of around 520,000, Antwerp is the largest city in Belgium. The Giants play their ball in the BNXT league which is the highest tear of Belgium basketball. After one successful season Tate transferred clubs and became a King. Tate knew that he had to get to a better ball club that would continue to challenge himself professionally. The Sydney Kinds were based in Sydney Australia and they play in the NBL. The Kings are a well-decorated ball club and sit third all-time in NBL championships with four. Tate began to gain more exposure and the competition was greater. After a season with the Kings, his coach Will Weaver joined the Houston Rockets as an assistant coach. Weaver decided to take his best player with him. That player was Jae"Sean Tate. As a 24-year-old rookie, Jae'Tate started his career with the Houston Rockets. Tate earned NBA All-Rookie First Team and continues to lead the Rockets with energy and passion for the game as he enters his third season with the club.
#31 Keita Bates-Diop
Current Team: San Antonio Spurs
Born: Jan. 23, 1996 (26 years old)
Hometown: Normal, Illinois
Height: 6'8" (203cm)
Weight: 229 (103kg)
Keita Bates-Diop often referred to as KBD is a forward/wing for the San Antonio Spurs. The 6'8" 5th-year player came out of college as the Big Ten Player of the Year in 2018 and was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves as the 48th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. During his time in the NBA, he spent two years with the Timberwolves, and a year with the Nuggets, and has found a home in San Antonio. The Spurs started him in 14 games of the 59 games that he played averaging 16.2 MPG. This year, he leads a talented young team with a Hall of Fame coach in Coach Gregg Popovich.
#4 Duane Washington Jr.
Current Team: Phenix Suns
Born: March 24, 2000 (22 years old)
Hometown: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Height: 6'3" (190cm)
Weight: 210 (95kg)
Duane Washington Jr. often referred to as DWiz is a two-way player for the Phenix Suns. The 6'3" guard is in his second year in the NBA. The Indiana Pacers signed Duane to a two-way deal before signing him to a multiple-year contract. The Pacers felt that they had the chance to add another star player to their roster which resulted in them cutting Duane after a phenomenal first year for the undrafted rookie. The Pacers lost out on Duane and did not sign the big-name free agent that they were hoping to sign. Duane was not on the market for long before he was scooped up by the Suns who are looking to make a run in the West. Duane could earn valuable time this year as a backup to one of the league's best guard duos in Chris Pual and Devin Booker. Expect Duane to light up the score when he enters the game. The former Buckeye shotmaker is not afraid of the big moments.
#22 Malaki Branham
Current Team: San Antonio Spurs
Born: May 12, 2003 (19 years old)
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
Height: 6'5" (196cm)
Weight: 180 (82kg)
Malaki Branham enters his rookie year with high expectations from the San Antonio Spurs. Malaki was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year in his only season with the Buckeyes and was Ohio's Mr. Basketball coming out of high school. I would say that Malaki has proven that he is used to expectations and should have the benefit of the doubt to exceed them. In the NBA, everybody has the accolades that Malaki has had, I get that. Everybody is a big-time player. With the 20th pick in the 2022 draft, I believe the San Antonio Spurs selected the steal of the draft. The Spurs have an exciting young core, and Malaki is a major player in their rebuild and will get big minutes early in his career.
#32 E.J. Liddell
Current Team: New Orleans Pelicans
Born: Dec. 18, 2000 (21 years old)
Hometown: Belleville, Illinois
Height: 6'7" (201cm)
Weight: 240 (109kg)
E.J. Liddell enters his first year rehabbing an injury that he sustained during the NBA Summer League. E.J. was selected by the New Orlean Pelicans with the 41st overall pick in the draft. The 6'7" versatile player entered the NBA as a 2x Mr. Basktball in Illinois, and an All-American selection out of college. Liddell's game developed into a smooth operation during his time at Ohio State. Leading the Buckeyes in scoring and setting the tone on the defensive end. Now that he is in the league, he has signed a two-year deal with the Pelicans even after sustaining the injury. I wish Liddell nothing but the best during his rehab and I know that he will return stronger than ever. Learn more about the signing here.