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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

But all that means is the Thunder could secure yet another steal if Zeller is still available when OKC is on the clock with the 12th selection.

Emphasis on if Zeller is available.

“The media and GMs have different impressions just because, no offense to (the media), the GMs, that's what they get paid to do,” Zeller said following a workout last week with Portland, which selects 10th. “That's all I'm worried about because they're the ones who are making the decisions.”

It doesn't take a scouting savant to see what makes Zeller so intriguing.

He possesses an excellent combination of size, athleticism and scoring ability, from in deep and potentially the perimeter as well. He plays with great energy, rarely giving up on plays, and complements that hustle with a high basketball IQ.

Where Zeller struggles is with the game's physicality. His lack of strength made it difficult for him to hold his position as a scorer and rebounder, and against longer, more athletic players Zeller had trouble finishing around the rim.

But that's where Zeller's personality and pedigree comes into to play. Many have labeled Zeller a high-character person and hard worker. Indiana coach Tom Crean said at the start of this past season that Zeller returned from his freshman season showing improvement “all over the court.”

“I've always tried to separate myself by how hard I work and how much I win,” Zeller told reporters at the draft combine. “I'm always a big competitor on and off the basketball court, and I think that's what's always separated me.”

While he has admitted he needs to get stronger to combat the increased physicality in the NBA, Zeller's best chance at professional success could be transforming his game and making the transition from a college center to face-up forward in the NBA. Zeller showed a smooth shooting stroke at Indiana and, according to reports, has extended his range to the point he is now comfortably shooting NBA 3-pointers.

“We had so many different weapons at Indiana that I didn't need to do that,” Zeller said. “But at the next level I have to do that. I have that ability. I just didn't show it as much this year.”

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.


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 (,, No. 9 (; No. 11 (,,

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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