By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
ESPN’s Lottery Mock Draft, created by Chad Ford, is a great interactive tool for any hoops fan. You can try it out here.
But be forewarned Thunder fans, you’re likely to come up Cody Zeller on almost every roll.
I spun the cycle 10 times, and Indiana’s 6-foot-11 sophomore center was slotted to the Thunder nine times (OKC got Maryland center Alex Len once).
Here’s what Ford said about Zeller in his latest Big Board…
Zeller has had a terrific season, but college teams do seem to have figured out how to disrupt his game. When teams throw physical players at him, his efficiency drops. In both the Wisconsin and Temple games, Zeller struggled around the basket with the physical defense. He’s been better when he catches the ball on the high post and creates. He really is need of a signature game or two in the tournament to prove to scouts he has the toughness it takes to be a NBA player.
…and here’s a little more (this time a bit more positive) from the draft tool itself
Zeller can play in the post, run the floor and finish above the rim. His quickness for his size and his efficiency is off the charts. He’s got terrific footwork for his size and is as fundamentally sound as any big man in the NCAA, and he’s shown a surprising ability to score in transition. He needs to get stronger and could be a better rebounder and expand his range.
On the surface, it seems like a pick that fills a need.
Kendrick Perkins, and his hefty contract (to amnesty or not?), isn’t getting any younger. And behind him, Hasheem Thabeet has played relatively well, but still feels like a stopgap. The Thunder want a big man for the future, and they’d presumably like to get one in this draft.
Question is, does Zeller fit that description?
He’s been productive (16.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game for the Big 10 champs) and consistent (double-digit scoring in 30 of IU’s 35 games this year). And at one time, he was viewed as a top-three pick in this draft. So you know there’s upside.
But his long-term skill set, and how it can translate and develop in the league, remains in question.
How high is his ceiling? And how hesitant would Presti be to select a guy who may remind him, and Thunder fans, a bit too much of recent big man draft misses Cole Aldrich and Byron Mullens?
Only time will tell.
Plus, there are so many variables between now and the June 27th Draft yet to be played out (Presti trading the pick, Toronto — and that top-three protected pick — winning the lottery, etc.).
But innocent speculation can be fun sometimes.
So, if you feel so inclined, spin that cycle a few times. And be sure to catch Zeller’s play on Thursday, when Indiana battles Syracuse (and point guard Michael Carter-Williams — another Thunder draft prospect) in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.