A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Draft Prospect Friday: An early Cody Zeller breakdown

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Cody Zeller looks like he could be the frontrunner for the #1 pick. Why? Because there’s strong whispers right now that SG Shabazz Muhammad will be ruled ineligible to play at UCLA this season. He’s still talented enough to be picked top 3 without proving himself in a college season, but I’m guessing #1 would be off the table. I’ve already expressed why I believe Nerlens Noel won’t cut it as #1 pick material. So that leaves Cody Zeller likely filling the vacuum. Zeller will likely be one of the most productive in college as he was a freshman and will only improve, the Hoosiers have a chance to be the best team in the country, he’s a C which is always a sought after position to fill and he has A+ intangibles. This all sets him up well for a top 3 pick, if not #1.

Here’s an early 33pt breakdown on Zeller’s talent level:

Physical impact: Cody is an excellent athlete, at a clear level above his brother Tyler. His footspeed and first step is very strong for a big, giving him blow-by potential against NBA Cs trying to guard him. He has enough vertical explosiveness to play above the rim. Zeller’s two major concerns physically are his strength and length. While he is young enough to add strength to his body, right now he is undeveloped for a center and may be pushed around early. A bigger problem is likely his short wingspan for a near 7 footer. This will greatly hurt his defensive potential; I wouldn’t expect him to block shots regularly in the NBA. Because of strength and length concerns, Zeller is a question mark in regards to finishing around the basket through contact. My score for Zeller physically is a 5 for a C as I believe his speed and athleticism will be difficult to guard offensively, to make up for some of his weaknesses.

Skill: Zeller has outstanding finishing ability around the basket, making him one of the NCAA’s most efficient players last year. His shooting game is still developing, but he shows sign of a good turnaround jumpshot and can hit his FTs. It’s probably a good bet he develops his shooting game to a respectable level to match his finishing. Zeller’s skill game should be above average for a center. My score for him in the category is a 7 with the potential to go higher.

Feel for the Game: This is his strength. Cody shows fantastic feel offensively, seeing angles around the rim to finish, as well as strong defensive instincts. He is always in control and seems aware of the basket and players around him. My score for Cody in feel for game is a 10.

To recap:

Physical impact: 5

Skill: 7

Feel for the Game: 10

Total score: 22 (All-star talent score)

This is a great score for Zeller. At a position as talent starved as C, it would make him a true star to build around for a team. A combination of elite feel for the game and good skill for a position should always make an impact, especially with respectable physical tools. Impressively, it’s not out of the question to me that I could undervaluing him with these skills. As a recently turned 20 year old, he could develop his skill game to a truly elite level for a C and it’s possible he bulks up to improve his physical ability. Both those things are made more likely by Cody’s supreme work ethic. Since my threshold for superstar talent is about 24-25, that is within reach for Cody. On the low end, it’s possible his physical tools translate a bigger weakness than I had scored them and his feel for the game and skill is slightly less impressive. It’s thus possible he ends up a player in 17-19 range in score, which is still respectable for a C.

Resembles: Brook Lopez, Luis Scola, Pau Gasol

By Julien Rodger

Twitter: @ASFW_jrodger (Send me a question, if I get enough I’ll do a mailbag or answer them in an article)

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Written by jr.

October 26, 2012 at 9:35 pm

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