SB Nation is posting scouting reports of each prospect in the 2013 NBA Draft. Learn more about Indiana big man Cody Zeller.
NAME: Cody Zeller.
AGE ON DRAFT NIGHT: 21 years, eight months.
POSITION: Power forward.
MEASUREMENTS: 6'10.75, 230 pounds, 6'10.75 wingspan, 8'10 standing reach.
|2012 - Cody Zeller||36||29.5||5.5||9.8||56.4||0.0||0.1||0.0||5.4||7.2||75.7||2.8||5.2||8.0||1.3||2.3||1.0||1.3||2.2||16.5|
RELEVANT "ADVANCED" STATS: 75.7% free-throw shooting percentage this season. To excel at the next level, Zeller will have to be a knock-down shooter from 15-20 feet.
SB NATION BIG BOARD POSITION: No. 7.
NBA CEILING: David Lee.
NBA FLOOR: Tyler Zeller.
JONATHAN TJARKS' ANALYSIS
When the season began, Cody Zeller was in the running to be the No. 1 overall pick. Instead, as often happens when highly-touted players return to school, scouts started to pick apart his weaknesses.
His last game at Indiana, where he was pushed around by the more athletic Syracuse front line in the Sweet 16 of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, didn't help. Zeller ended his college career by scoring 10 points on 3-11 shooting. He just didn't have a counter to the Orange's length and athleticism at the front of the rim.
At 7'0, 230 pounds in shoes with a 6'10.75 wingspan, Zeller doesn't have the size or length to be a starting center at the next level. The good news is that he may not have to be, though. While he played primarily on the block for the Hoosiers, he showed flashes of the skill and athleticism necessary to transition to power forward.
The key will be his mid-range jumper. He didn't take the shot very often, but his 75.7 percent free throw shooting percentage suggests he can make it. If defenses have to respect him on the perimeter, Zeller is the rare near-seven footer who can attack a close-out.
As a power forward, he would give his team a tremendous amount of size and athleticism. With another big man protecting him, his weakness on defense and the glass wouldn't be as pronounced, while his athleticism and ball-handling ability would be a major bonus.
The question is how much can you value his potential to be a face-up 4 if you never saw him do it in college. Zeller will have to significantly adjust his game to be succeed in the NBA, but a 20-year old seven-footer with his athleticism and skill should be able to figure it out.
DRAFT EXPRESS SCOUTING REPORT
OTHER SB NATION SCOUTING REPORTS
Zeller's biggest knock is playing small despite being 7ft tall. A lot of his issues are fixable and he could actually thrive better at the pro level than college. Zeller has always been more of a face up player than back to the basket. If he can wind up with a team that has a true post and allows Zeller to play the 4 he could flourish. We didn't see a lot of it in college but Zeller can shoot. Getting into a position where he can showcase those skills doubles his potential for being a big time player.
Teams looking to draft Zeller have to ignore all the talk of him being too weak or playing too small. Will he ever compete with Dwight Howard on the baseline? Not consistently. But, he can be your Pau Gasol work 5-8 feet from the basket while contributing a couple nice post moves on a nightly basis. Zeller has the ability to compete at the next level and I think a lot of the knocks on his toughness are taken from a small sample size of one game against a physical Syracuse team.
The Hoosiers' best NBA prospect, averaging 14.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.2 steals on 64.3 percent shooting as a freshman. Needs to gain muscle to better hold position against 240-250 lb. centers at the next level as well as improve mid-range J. Would be a first-round pick this year, but given family history, hard to see him going pro with so much room for growth in college.
Zeller moves like a freakish athlete on the court, and he recently backed up this impression in the draft combine. He posted the highest no-step vertical of all participants (the highest ever recorded for a big) and outperformed anyone within 5" and 30 pounds of him in both the quickness and speed drills. Zeller also has great handles to compliment this athleticism, making him an impossible cover for most similarly-sized players. These features come through in his ability to get to the rim and the free-throw line. Zeller's freshman and sophomore seasons rank as the second- and third-highest rates of rim attempts in the past three seasons (behind only Kelly Olynyk ‘13), and he made more free throws than any other NCAA big last season. Zeller also increased his efficiency away from the rim in 2013, doubling his rate of converted mid-range shots. Developing a shooting threat will be important to Zeller's NBA success, especially at the four. There aren't many NBA bigs who will be able to keep Zeller from penetrating unless they can ignore the threat of a shot.
Zeller is one of those guys that really benefited from the combine. He tested extremely well athletically and measured quite well too. Sam was working on placing him 5-7 spots lower than this before we found out about those numbers. It might be an overreaction on our part, but we basically determined that those numbers mean he has a great deal of untapped potential. As you know, a lot of the NBA Draft is about potential. Zeller is very skilled, apparently a lot more athletic than we thought, and still quite young. That makes him a pretty nice prospect.
When you watch Zeller, you don't see the appeal. You see him go for long stretches making no impact in any aspect of the game and when he does realize that he needs to assert himself, he does something awkward that results in him being blocked or falling weirdly. You shake your head. But you watch IU go on to win, and you check the box score and see that Zeller has 16 points on 10 shots, 8 boards, and a couple blocks, steals, and assists. Where did that come from?
Zeller's being underrated as a prospect. Indiana's record went to 10-21 and 12-20 before Zeller to 27-9 and 29-7 with him. He's not an exciting player, but he's effective.
Indiana's Cody Zeller is a solid offensive player with a diverse low-post repertoire. His footwork, agility and height give him more than enough tools for that to carry over to the NBA. Zeller's high motor, mobility and basketball IQ allows him to capitalize on a few easy baskets per game. His potential as a jump shooter in the NBA is solid, too. On the defensive end, Zeller is a solid pick and roll defender, using his quickness to hedge and recover on time and also generate steals. However, his lack of athleticism will likely prohibit him from ever being a true enforcer on that end.
Cody Zeller really helped his cause with a good combine where he measured very well athletically. He's got good size and he took advantage of all his physical gifts in college. He's perhaps the most skilled big man scorer in the draft and kind of reminds me of a shorter Brook Lopez, right down to the mediocre rebounding.
Personally, I'm not nearly as high on Zeller as many people. I'm not sure that I would feel comfortable taking him in the top ten. The athleticism problem, the strength problem, and the length problem give me pause despite his incredible production in college. I don't expect him to fall out of the top ten, but I would not want to be the general manager that selects him there. He's at least third on my list of centers after Nerlens Noel and Alex Len.
For more coverage, visit SB Nation's NBA Draft 2013 section.