As we get closer to the NCAA Tournament, NBA Draft Blog will be taking a closer look at underclassmen whose play or potential warrants the possibility that they could declare for the draft. Sophomores and juniors will get full scouting reports now, but freshmen I will handle a bit differently right now. Without a full college season under their belt, I believe the best approach will be to break the report down into 2 broad sections – what skills and abilities they have shown so far, and what I would like to see them do before the season ends. Once the season is over, they will receive a full scouting report.
Today I am looking at Indiana’s star freshman, big man Cody Zeller. The near seven-footer decided to stay close to home and help revive the Hoosiers’ program, and he has not disappointed. Is his game ready for the NBA right now?
Cody Zeller (6’11, 230, F, 15.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 63.4 FG%, 75.7 FT%) had a lot of pressure coming to Indiana and being hyped as the missing piece to get the program back to its winning ways, and he has more than delivered. Not only has he been a force on the offensive end, but the intensity he plays with has rubbed off on his veteran teammates.
On the offensive end, Zeller has way beyond his years as a low-post player. He is fundamentally sound – he gets low on the defender, has great balance, and sets a good target for his teammate. He is solid from both sides of the lane, and has a nice variety of moves to rely on. When making a move, he keeps his dribble close and to a minimum, and his footwork is advanced for his age. He doesn’t shy from contact and does a good job drawing fouls. Similar to his older brother Tyler (see his full report here), Cody runs the floor extremely well for a big man, often beating guards down the court, and he knows how to finish strong. He does need to show the ability to hit the mid-range jumper, but that should come in time. Being aware of double-teams in the post, and making the right decisions should also improve with time.
Defensively, Zeller is far from as polished. He needs to set a more solid base in the post – he tends to stand straight up, making him easy to back down for a stronger player. He does do a good job challenging shots, getting his long arms fully extended. He also needs to improve his footwork both defending the post and the perimeter, as well as when guarding against the pick and roll. I would also like to see Zeller do a better job using his body when rebounding on the defensive end.
While Zeller would be served well to remain in school another year, he is a freshman who could get solid minutes next year in the NBA. If he was to come out this June, I don’t think there is any way he makes it out of the lottery – somewhere in the 9-14 range right now, with a deep NCAA run getting him a little higher.
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