The last time Ohio State fans saw Aaron Craft and LaQuinton Ross, both were crushed following a first-round NCAA Tournament exit at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, N.Y.
Well, Craft and Ross, as well as Buckeye fans everywhere, could very well be disappointed again, this time as the result of an event in another New York town.
After months of combines, workouts and physicals, it has become increasingly unlikely that either Craft or Ross will hear his name called at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Thursday in the 2014 NBA Draft.
While Craft and Ross led the Buckeyes through the majority of the 2013 to 2014 season in Columbus, neither player projects very well at the NBA level, each for very different reasons.
For Ross, the problems are more scattered and not centered around one fatal flaw.
On the offensive end, Ross is little more than serviceable in every area, which means there may be too many skills to develop for him to become a quality NBA player.
For example, Ross is a decent perimeter shooter, but doesn’t shoot well enough to qualify as a dangerous outside threat. At times he can drive to the rim, but doesn’t do so consistently enough to be a dominant scorer. He’s shown signs of a post-game, but he simply doesn’t have the size to be a legitimate inside presence.
For these reasons, NBA scouts may view him as an average offensive player, rather than a real scoring threat.
The problems for Ross, however, don’t stop there.
On the defensive end, he is a liability, which is certainly problematic for any NBA team.
The motor just isn’t there – on either end quite frankly – and he’s not going to be athletic enough to guard NBA players at the small forward position. In a league in which defensive intensity plays a big role,, Ross’ defense is a big hole, further pushing him down the lists and the draft boards of any NBA team.
Finally, there are a couple of intangibles that I touched upon above that cause for concern.
First of all, Ross arrived at the combine with added weight, but according to multiple reports, it wasn’t a healthy weight. Rather Ross seemed pudgy with the unathletic weight that no team wants to see. That simple appearance points to a lack of work ethic that has followed Ross for years and could put him even further in the proverbial hole.
Then, there were the numerous times Ross seemed completely lost on the court – times when, even on offense, Ross seemed disengaged, out-of-touch and in a daze. That lack of focus is certainly not a trait that an NBA scout wants to see, especially from a so-called “leader” of an elite college basketball program.
Finally, Ross was often timid in the big moments.
Sure, he hit the big shot against Arizona to send the Buckeyes to the Elite Eight in 2013, but in the most recent campaign, Ross didn’t shoulder the load that he was expected to. He was often absent when the team needed the big point or the big play, which may have been the cause of OSU’s struggles near the end. That inability to handle the biggest moments is certainly not a plus for any player, especially a team’s best offensive threat.
The 6-foot 7-inch, 239-pound Ross has legitimate NBA size, but the aforementioned flaws may cause too much concern for any NBA team to handle.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Craft’s NBA career may be in jeopardy for purely physical reasons.
Craft’s well-documented character, work ethic and intellect would almost certainly be enough to get nearly any NBA prospect drafted, but he certainly isn’t getting the looks many expected him too.
Defensively, Craft may be the best this 2014 draft class has to offer. His 6-foot, 2-inch frame is enough to guard just about any point guard in the NBA and his defensive intensity and ability may be second to none.
Defense is his biggest strength, that’s not the problem.
Craft’s offense, and only his offense, is the problem and may prove a fatal flaw.
While his defensive ability may be NBA-worthy, his offensive ability was barely worthy of an elite Division I basketball program.
Don’t get me wrong, Craft made big plays when they counted most – a testament to his immense value as a player and a leader – but overall, his offense is a bit cringe-worthy, especially for an NBA scout.
His jump shot is hitch-filled, he’s not athletic enough to create his own shot at the NBA level and while he was able to make his way to the basket for layups, it may be a bit more difficult for him to do so consistently at the NBA level.
Again though, to fill a final roster spot, could you ask for a better option?
A guy who’s willing to work to do what it takes to make his dreams come true and to help his team to make it to the next level.
Plus, should there ever be any defensively-centered situations, Aaron Craft is a guy any NBA coach would love to have on the floor.
If Craft’s offensive shortcomings prove fatal in terms of his draft stock, I believe he will definitely break camp with an NBA team. His offense may be the project of all projects, but his defense and off-the-court charisma are definitely traits that every NBA team wants in their locker room and not many other players can boast.
Overall, draft night may be a disappointing one for these former Buckeyes, but things may not be all bleak in the grand scheme of things.
Ross could definitely benefit from some time overseas, maybe playing in Europe and honing his offensive skills, while Craft could certainly find his way onto an NBA team before the 2014 NBA season tips off.