Cody Zeller Will Become the Biggest Surprise of the 2013 NBA Draft

Cody Zeller is an enigma. He is a center that can’t rebound or play defense, but he has the skill set of a guard. He has been called “soft” and “lazy,” but he has a work ethic like nobody’s business. He is a freak athlete, with a quick first step, a 40-inch vertical, and great lateral quickness.

But how good can Cody Zeller really be? The answer is that he will shock the world. Cody Zeller will become the biggest surprise of the 2013 NBA Draft.

The Pacers and Bobcats

Where Cody ends up in the draft will determine what position he plays in the NBA. With the Bobcats selecting at 4 and the Pacers at 23, Cody’s available positions are center and power forward for Charlotte and power forward for Indiana. I believe Cody will turn out to be best suited for power forward, but we’ll save that discussion for later.

Regardless of what position Cody plays in the league, his team is going to need him to score efficiently from inside 10 feet. It also wouldn’t hurt if he made a few mid-range jumpers as well. Luckily for him, this is where he does his best work on offense.

I’m going to make a bold prediction here. A very bold prediction. I believe that Cody Zeller will become the biggest surprise of the 2013 NBA Draft.

I was at the draft lottery this year and saw his reaction when Charlotte got the number four spot. He thought he was in line for being a top-three pick in a very strong draft class. Instead, he fell to number four and the Bobcats got him.

When you hear people talk about Zeller and you compare what they say to what is said about some of the other players in this draft, it’s insane to me that he is only ranked fifth on most mock drafts.

The reason why I think Zeller will become such a surprise is because I think that he has a chance to be one of those special players who comes along once every few years in college basketball. Zeller has that unique ability to create shots for himself, while also having great touch with his hands around the basket. He’s one of those gifted players that can get off the ground quickly and has quick feet around the basket. This gives him an advantage over most seven-footers in college basketball, which is why his game translates so well into the NBA.

When the Indiana Pacers picked Cody Zeller with the fourth pick in the 2013 NBA draft, many fans and media members had a laugh. Some even booed. The move seemed to be an example of a small-market team making a safe choice from the state university rather than taking a chance on a potential superstar.

But two years later, it’s looking like Zeller is about to become the biggest surprise of this draft class—and perhaps one of the best players in it.

Zeller has had a very strong sophomore season for the Charlotte Hornets, who gave up Lance Stephenson to acquire him during this past offseason. Entering Wednesday’s game against Boston, he’s averaging 12.3 points and 8.7 rebounds while shooting 56 percent from the field (a career best). His per-36-minute numbers are impressive: 16.2 points, 11.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.5 blocks while shooting 54 percent from the floor and 75 percent from the foul line (also career bests).

The NBA Draft is tonight, and the Charlotte Bobcats have the fourth overall pick. The consensus seems to be that Cody Zeller is the best player available. I don’t agree. I think he has a chance of becoming one of the biggest surprises of the draft, but not in a good way.

I know it’s popular to compare Zeller to Chris Bosh, but these two big men are nothing alike. Bosh is 6’11 and 235 pounds, whereas Zeller is 7’0 and 230 pounds. Bosh loves to play in fluid motion, while Zeller prefers to move at his own pace and dominate on both ends of the court. Bosh just turned 28 years old, whereas Zeller won’t turn 20 until October 5th.

Zeller has a lot of developing to do before he will eventually become an NBA star. He’s only played for two seasons at Indiana University, which means his ceiling hasn’t been reached yet. If you’re going to compare him to any other current or former NBA players, I would go with a guy like Tyson Chandler or even Pau Gasol because they have similar playing styles and body types as well.

Chandler was drafted as the second overall pick in 2001 by the Los Angeles Clippers out of Dominguez High

The 2013 NBA Draft is the most talent-laden draft since 2003. The Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder are just three of the teams that will be improved by a draft pick. Most of the analysis to date has focused on stars like Anthony Bennett and Victor Oladipo. But Cody Zeller, an unheralded Indiana Hoosiers player, will become a star in the NBA and make a huge impact for whatever team chooses him this week.

Zeller averaged 16.5 points per game and 8.1 rebounds during his junior season at Indiana. He was named Big Ten Player of the Year as a sophomore, when he averaged 15.6 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game. His scoring decreased during his junior season, but the 21-year-old was still able to lead Indiana to its second straight Big Ten regular season title and show improvement in other statistical categories such as field goal percentage (58 percent) and offensive rebounds (77).

Zeller’s best skill is his ability to run the floor in transition and convert easy baskets on fast breaks or offensive rebounds. He also has a high basketball I.Q., which allows him to be in the right place at the right time consistently despite playing with less talented teammates

The Indiana Pacers have been searching for a center to play alongside Roy Hibbert for years. Now, they may have found him in Cody Zeller.

The Pacers selected Zeller with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft.

Zeller has been projected as a top-10 pick throughout the draft process and was considered by many to be a stretch at No. 4. But Indiana had their sights set on Zeller, reportedly trading Ian Mahinmi to the Dallas Mavericks to clear cap space in order to sign the rookie big man (via ESPN’s Marc Stein).

Last season with the Hoosiers, Zeller averaged 16.5 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks while shooting 62 percent from the field and 75 percent from the free-throw line. He also showed off his versatility, showing an ability to score both inside and outside of the paint while also acting as a go-to option in crunch time for Indiana.

Although he’s not yet a polished post player, Zeller still has all of the tools necessary to be an elite NBA big man on both sides of the court. His athleticism and length should allow him to be a dominant force on offense early in his career, and he has shown consistent improvement as a

The Charlotte Bobcats are set to take Cody Zeller with the fourth pick in the NBA draft. He’s a good prospect, but he could be a great one.

Zeller is known for his offensive skill and rebounding, but he doesn’t get enough credit for his ability to defend. That will change this season.

The downside to playing at Indiana is that you have to share the ball with other talented players. It might have been difficult for Zeller to show off his full array of skills. But he’s got the size and speed necessary to be an elite defender in the NBA. Expect him to be a lockdown player next season.

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