Oklahoma City Thunder: Could OKC get another draft-day steal in Cody Zeller?

Indiana's Cody Zeller is a big man with big-time skills, the perfect blend of basketball characteristics the Thunder needs and might be looking for in the upcoming draft. But will he be available at No. 12?
by Darnell Mayberry Published: June 11, 2013


photo - Indiana's Cody Zeller (40) dunks during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big Ten tournament against Illinois Friday, March 15, 2013, in Chicago. Indiana won 80-64. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)  ORG XMIT: ILMG119
Indiana's Cody Zeller (40) dunks during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big Ten tournament against Illinois Friday, March 15, 2013, in Chicago. Indiana won 80-64. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) ORG XMIT: ILMG119

Cody Zeller seems to have the right personality.

Take, for instance, his response to a light-hearted question during the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Before top-seeded Indiana took on 16th-seeded James Madison, a reporter asked Zeller and the boys from Bloomington if they knew the man their opposing school was named after.

After guard Victor Oladipo stumbled through his best guess, Zeller leaned in and quipped to the reporter “Do you know what a Hoosier is?”

Or go back a year earlier. Same setting. This time, Zeller and his teammates were asked if their parents were able to make it to Portland to take in the second round of the 2012 tournament.

“My parents are going to watch Tyler in Greensboro,” Zeller said, “because he's the favorite.”

Tyler Zeller is the 2012 ACC Player of the Year who starred at North Carolina before becoming the 17th pick in last year's NBA Draft. He's three years older than Cody. Ahead of them is Luke, who played at Notre Dame and was on Phoenix's roster for the first half of this season.

That means Cody Zeller has the right pedigree.

And as a versatile, 7-foot power forward/center, Cody also plays the right position.

He's a big man with big-time skills, the perfect blend of basketball characteristics the Thunder needs and might be looking for in the upcoming draft.

“He's got some aspects that are already NBA-ready,” Utah director of player personnel Walt Perrin told reporters following Zeller's recent workout for the Jazz.

Zeller averaged 16.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots while leading the Hoosiers to the Sweet 16. But because those numbers were only marginally better than his production as a freshman, Zeller failed to live up to much of his preseason hype. That hype had the Hoosiers as the nation's preseason No. 1 team — they suffered three defeats at various points in the season while carrying that ranking — and Zeller pegged by many as the projected top overall pick in this year's draft.

Couple a so-so sophomore season with a disappointing tournament run (Zeller averaged 12 points on 42.3 percent shooting and 6.7 rebounds in three games) and you'll understand why Zeller went from potentially being the top pick to fringe top 10 pick.

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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Editor's note: As part of the James Harden trade with Houston last October, the Thunder obtained the No. 12 overall selection in the June 27 NBA Draft via Toronto. We look at 12 potential candidates the Thunder might consider taking with that No. 12 pick. Today: Indiana power forward/center Cody Zeller.

CODY ZELLER

Height: 7-foot

Weight: 230

Birth date: Oct. 5, 1992

Hometown: Washington, Ind.

School: Indiana

Class: Sophomore

2012-13 stats: 16.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.3 bpg, .562 FG, .757 FT

Strengths: Good athlete for his size and position. Runs the floor extremely well. Has a nice shooting touch. Can score inside and out. Classic high motor player. Never gives up on plays. High basketball IQ. Great footwork allows him to defend the pick and roll well. Has a knack for drawing fouls.

Weaknesses: Lacks strength, which hurts him when trying to hold position as a scorer and rebounder. Struggles to score against both length and better athletes. Doesn't protect the basket well as a shot-blocker or man defender in the post.

How he could help the Thunder: Nick Collison isn't getting any younger, and Zeller could someday step into Collison's role as a glue guy off the bench. Zeller would need to spend time learning from Collison, particular the finer points of post defense, but in two years the Thunder could have a versatile energy guy to complement Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.

Projections: No. 7 (nbadraft.net, hoopshype.com), No. 9 (hoopsworld.com); No. 11 (draftexpress.com, SI.com, espn.com).

Quotable: “I was surprised by as well as he shot the ball from the outside. I anticipated maybe the 15, 18-foot range he'd be pretty decent, which he was, but farther out his shot didn't change. It was the same stroke. It didn't look like he was forcing to get it up there. A lot of big guys who don't shoot that shot a lot, it looks like a real strain, and he didn't. He just shot it normally.” — Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek following Zeller's recent workout with the Suns.

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