Cody Zeller, No. 12 (Mock Draft)
The Thunder take an NBA-ready big from Indiana.
by Bill DiFilippo / @bflip33
The Oklahoma City Thunder’s centers, as officially listed, are Kendrick Perkins and Hasheem Thabeet. Here is that duo’s combined statistics during the Thunder’s Playoff run this past season (WARNING: NSFW): 25.6 mpg, 2.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 0.6 apg, 0.98 spg, 0.45 bpg, 2.6 tpg, 5.3 fpg.
No. Seriously. Those were the numbers from two centers on the top-ranked team in the Western Conference. If you think their overall numbers are bad, you should see what their numbers were in the team’s second-round exit against Memphis. I’d post them, but I’d get fired for posting obscene material.
So where does Oklahoma City go from here? They’re the only team in the game with arguably two top-10 players in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. They have the NBA’s best shot blocker not named “JaVale” or “Larry” in Serge Ibaka, plenty of young talent in Reggie Jackson, Perry Jones and Jeremy Lamb, and one of the best front offices in the League.
That last part is probably the best thing OKC has going for them right now. They have a front office not willing to explore every angle before making a move. Does that mean they’ll trade the No. 12 pick in the Draft? Or possibly use their amnesty clause on Kendrick Perkins? I don’t know. But what I do know: The team isn’t going to blindly pull the trigger out of fear or desperation (yes, I remember they traded James Harden for $0.40 on the dollar).
So what does the team do? I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Thunder moved the 12th pick for a more established piece that fits their system. But since that’s not an option right now, I think they amnesty Perk and go for a center. So let’s see who’s available.
*Sees Cody Zeller and Alex Len are both available*
Wait, they’re both available? Did these guys rob a bank or measure in at 6-4 at the Combine or fail a drug test? Thunder GM Sam Presti would salivate over one of those guys, but both? Wow. Let’s do this.
With the 12th pick in the 2013 SLAMonline Mock Draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder select…
Cody Zeller from Indiana.
I went back and forth on “Zeller or Len” about 2,000 times before I decided to give OKC the star sophomore from Indiana. If you want to make the argument that Len is a better prospect with a higher ceiling and Oklahoma City should draft him because they’re so good with player development, feel free. It’s a perfectly reasonable argument with logical reasoning.
With that in mind, I think we can all agree that Len is more of a risk than Zeller. Zeller is a much more polished prospect. If Oklahoma City was a rebuilding team that didn’t have “title or bust” expectations every season, I’d pick Len.
But Oklahoma City is built to win right now. They need a guy who can step in from day one and, if not start, come off the bench and provide the low post scoring that they haven’t had in…well, ever (in the time since they moved from Seattle).
Seriously. The big man with the most refined low-post game in the team’s history is Nenad Kristic, and he never averaged double-digit scoring for the Thunder.
The beautiful thing about Zeller is, while he probably can’t give the team his college averages of 16.1 ppg and 7.3 rpg on 59.2 percent shooting as a rookie, he won’t have to. He just has to give them something. Seriously. Look at those numbers from Kensheem Perkbeet again. Not pretty.
The thing that Zeller does best is run the floor. Watch any Indiana game; one of the main reasons they could play at 1,000 mph whenever they wanted is because Zeller is so good at running the floor that he would beat his man down the court almost every time. That’s why, despite not being the strongest guy or the best jumper, he was second in the Big Ten in rebounding.
Zeller is also a remarkably efficient scorer. While his career 59.2 percent from the field is impressive in itself, his advanced stats are pretty remarkable. His true shooting percentage was 64.3 percent, while his eFG% was 59.2 percent.
While all of his numbers were slightly worse as a sophomore—his FG%/TS%/eFG% spits were 62.3/66.5/62.3 as a freshman and 56.4/62.4/56.4 as a sophomore—they’re still nothing to sniff it. Neither is his career 75.6 free-throw shooting percentage.
Is Zeller the perfect prospect? Of course not. He has plenty of concerns. In no particular order: He can disappear in big games. While he’s huge, his wingspan is 6-8. He’s a nice defender, but needs to get better. He should probably add 15-20 pounds. Bigger guys push him around. He doesn’t always dominate lesser competition (I.e. his 2-point performance at home against Penn State last season).
This shouldn’t defer Oklahoma City or, really, any team. With Zeller, you’re getting a guy who has no problem being the second, third or fourth wheel on a team. That’s normally not a good thing, but it is when you have Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Ibaka on your team. The dude wants to win, and if the primary way he helps his team is by averaging 5 and 3 while deferring to those three, he’ll happily do it.
Out of all of the prospects in the Draft this year, Zeller may be the most NBA ready. For a team that’s looking to win a title next season, that’s something crucial. Sure, there’s a chance that Len or Kelly Olynyk develop into better players, but will any of them help out Oklahoma City in 2013 and, perhaps, 2014, 2015 and 2016 than Zeller? I don’t think so.
If everything goes right for Zeller, he can be LaMarcus Aldridge. Worst case scenario, he can be Nick Collison. If he’s somewhere in between and he’s a taller version of Carl Landry, OKC would happily take that. With how much their centers struggled, don’t you agree?
|2013 SLAMonline Mock Draft|