Two players, Cody Zeller and James Michael McAdoo, headed in to the 2012-2013 college basketball season as locks for the top five of this year's NCAA Draft. McAdoo disappointed and decided to return to North Carolina for another season. Meanwhile, Zeller improved marginally in all aspects of his game, but concerns surrounding his size and aggression grew louder and louder as the season has gone on.
Recently teams in the 10-15 range of the NBA Draft have looked at Zeller. However, his stellar Chicago combine numbers and recent individual workouts have Zeller trending back up towards the top 5 of this year's draft.
Let's start with his measurements and athletic testing results from the Chicago combine last month. Zeller easily measured out as the most athletic big, finshing the combine with a 3/4 sprint of 3.15 seconds and a max vertical of 37.5 inches. He also measured a shade taller than seven feet tall in shoes (the height measurement that matters).
Those measurements had general managers and scouts wondering if Zeller might be able to play power forward in the NBA. Then the individual workouts started. Zeller has visited Phoenix (the 5th pick), Sacramento (7th pick) and Portland (10th pick) among others. In each of those stops he has shown an ability to step out and shoot all the way back to the NBA three-pointer.
After Zeller's Sacramento workout, head coach Mike Malone said Zeller's shooting ability caught him off guard (H/T Cowbell Kingdom).
"I didn't know he had NBA three point range like he showed today," Malone said. "And that's definitely an area that he's put a lot of time and effort in to."
Zeller has compared his game to LaMarcus Aldridge because of his ability to work in the mid-post and his passing ability. That is not a terrible comparison, though Zeller's wingspan and standing reach will do him no favors defending the block or shooting over other defenders.
However, if he can work out in space he could be a dynamic offensive weapon given his shooting stroke (assuming it translates from work outs to in game) and athletic ability to blow past defenders. He also seems to be mobile enough to be a good pick and roll defender.
Right now, Zeller is still in the 10-14 range on most mock draft, but his workout in Sacramento was very good and Chad Ford reported Tuesday that he is a dark horse pick for the Bobcats at number four. As with most rookies, how well Zeller does will be about fit as much as where he's picked. But in recent weeks his talent that put him in the top-five for much of year is starting to shine through.
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