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Friday, March 29, 2013

Twitter: "Cody Zeller Sucks"

The best and worst part of the NCAA Tournament are all the added interested viewers. Twitter is flooded by opinions from both NBA bloggers and college basketball scribes alike - each offering their own perspective. Many times, NBA bloggers will be watching a prospect for the first time and either highly overrated or underrate the player based on one performance while the college guys remain even keel as they've seen both the highs and lows of these guys.

In the case of Cody Zeller last night, it seemed both sides rallied around a similar belief that Cody Zeller is overrated as a NBA prospect. Zeller had 6 of his shots blocks and looked overwhelmed inside by the size and athleticism of Syracuse. This was evident to anyone watching the game and didn't take an expert to come away with this inclusion. And the college writers agreed with this notion not because of this one game, but because this is something that has been evident all year. So for once, both sets of writers had the same opinion. 

This opinion is something that can't really be argued. Watch the film against teams with NBA size like Michigan State, Minnesota, or a physical frontline like Wisconsin's. Zeller has a tendency to go right into the bodies of defenders and has several of his shots blocked. His drives to the basket can become both easy to see coming and easy to predict how the play will end. When Zeller takes it into the body of defenders, a lot of times it seems like he is stuck to the floor - not necessarily because he can't jump - but because his arms are barely long enough to extend from his body. His abnormally short wingspan is a reason why many are skeptical about his ability to succeed at the next level.

The scouting report of Zeller's strengths and weaknesses are fairly simple. It doesnt take much time watching Zeller to realize what he struggles with and what he does well. Thats why last night on Twitter, seemingly everyone I followed repeated the same concerns over Zeller's ability at the next level. But scouting isn't simply about evaluating strengths and weaknesses and determining if the player played well. Anyone who watches any amount of tape on Zeller will come up with a similar scouting report and recognize the situations where he struggled.

There is another piece of the puzzle that both college basketball and NBA writers alike don't see. Scouting is about more than meets the eye, which is usually all writers look at. They'll watch the player and evaluate how he played. Simple enough, but thats something everyone can do and it doesn't separate you from the field in terms of projecting talent to the next level. A scout has to think outside the box, put himself in a players shoes, and picture him in situations different from his current one in order to determine how he will succeed.

In Zeller's current situation, he is the center of a basketball team that has no other inside presence. One of his point guards is a freshman who is learning how to pass and the other guy is a senior who rarely penetrates or makes plays at all. At power forward, there is a stretch forward who struggles against physical play but fares well in his position away from the basket. 

A large problem in Zeller's game is coaching and personnel. Zeller is asked to be the big man for Indiana and play like a center. Zeller constantly takes it to the basket and into defenders' bodies despite the mixed results. There is no questioning Zeller's skillset, but at Indiana it seems he actually plays against his strengths and puts his weaknesses on display.

Paul Flannery wrote a great article this week about Ryan McDonough, the Celtics assistant general manager and the guy who deserves the most credit for them drafting Rajon Rondo (read it here). While Rondo was dogged by both college and NBA bloggers alike for his terrible shooting and trouble in the halfcourt, McDonough saw a guy who was extremely talented but just was being misused. Thats what scouts are supposed to do. They aren't meant to strictly evaluate a guys play - they are asked to think outside the box and figure out why a guy is struggling and if he would be better in another situation. The same thing can be said for Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger - two more guys who had obvious weaknesses, but have succeeded by being put in roles to emphasis their strengths.

Zeller is just another guy that needs to be used the right way. Right now, he's not being put in a situation that makes him look great. And for guys like McDonough, this is where their expertise separate themselves from the pundits who spend their time posting opinions on twitter.

You see, Zeller isn't a center and will never be a center. So when you talk about his short wingspan, his weakness finishing against longer, athletic players, his lack of strength, and his inability to be an intimidating defensive presence at the rim - these are all things that can be negated if he's playing a different position. A position that he is meant for - power forward.

Crean shouldn't get all the blame for misusing Zeller. A lot of it has to do with personnel. But we saw how unprepared Indiana's offense looked against Syracuse's zone - as if they didn't expect it - and we saw how Zeller was used. At some point, Zeller refusing to take jumpers and utilizing more touch around the basket has to fall on his coaching. Zeller has been playing this style all year and all Crean has to do is encourage him to shoot more, have him set more ball screens, and get him out of the low post. Pitino did it with Dieng. Its not a big adjustment. But I guess Crean feels the need to have a presence in the post and at the rim, so thats the role Zeller has been relegated to.

Think about it though. You have a guy that can shoot the ball, has the ability to face up, has good touch at the rim, can pass off the dribble better than just about any big, handles the ball well, runs the court in transition, is excellent coming off ball screens, and is a better athlete in terms of coordination than explosiveness. Nevermind his position in college, that screams NBA power forward and thats just looking at his offensive ability. Throw in his perimeter defense, his ability to rotate and defend pick and rolls, his footwork, and his lack of rim protecting skills and there is absolutely no reason to ever look at him as a center prospect. Instead, he's an ideal power forward prospect. While people saw his inability to finish inside last night, I came away satisfied with how he was able to stick with CJ Fair whenever they were matched up together.

Whether or not this effects Zeller's stock is something I can't tell you, but what I can guarantee is there is a smart GM sitting outside the top 10 that would love for Zeller to fall in their laps. 

6 comments:

  1. except no one has trouble blocking his shots. I watched him all year...he struggled against nearly every team. If you got a jumper you would use it...he doesn't, because he doesn't have one. I've watched him for 2 years and never once has taken over a game except for maybe this years's ann arbor game, and the mich st game at home last year. His feet are stuck to the floor, he has about a 12" vertical. I think he needed to develop a sky hook and some others movers because if you are a power forward you are playing around the rim AND ABOVE ,what do you think the "power" means. I think he should have stayed and developed his shot selection...I dont see him in the NBA in 4 years.

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    1. Cody Zeller doesnt need to develop shot selection. He just needs to be in a situation that uses him right. Guys get misused in college all the time - Zeller is the perfect example. Asking him to play the role of enforcer at the rim is just silly. But he has to next to Watford. The blame for his tendencies should fall on Crean, not Zeller. If you want to blame Zeller then fine, but it wont take much for a NBA coach to instruct him to stick with his strengths on offense.

      Zeller shot 40% on 2-pt jumpers this year, FWIW. His mechanics are very sound and he has great touch.

      The term "power forward" is very outdated. If power means anything, then half of the NBA stretch 4s currently playing the position wouldnt be a PF. If power meant something, guys like DJ White would be starting.

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  2. its not outdated, its used for forwards who attack the rim, in your reply you did not address any of the points I made.

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  3. He didn't take true jumpers ala 10 footers,his jump shots were under but around the rim. How are you gonna be 7'0" and not be able to play around adn above the rim. The NBA game takes place around and above the rim. Especially if your 7 foot (ralph samson 7'4" tons more ability than Zeller, no real NBA career). He cant shoot 3's like novitski cant dribble like him dont think he will ever be able to dribble because of those short arms. Who ever gets him might just as well release him to turkey. He is not nearly the best big man out of the big ten...McGary, Payne both are far better than cody. Cody has no athletic ability other than running. Considering his moves or I should say one move "fullback" he should have tried out for tight end in the NFL. Cody Zeller is a bust I watched every game for 2 years and he needs development. That being said Watford is the smallest 6'10" forward I have ever seen, where was he in the tourney?.

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  4. Cody Zeller is not NBA material and he has earned the ire of Hoosier fans for all time. An education is priceless and this is a typical product of generation dumb. He doesn't care about greatness just money. Now on the otherhand...what if he doesn't respect Crean or believe he can develop his skills. Still in his heart after being owned by Temple and not really dominating JM he had to know hes not NBA I think he gets drafted high 1st low 2nd and I still think its a wasted pick because he will be in Europe in 4 years. He could have been a champ in 2014 or 15 with the class they have comingin; but I believe he will go on to be a chump. The world needs shining examples not greedy C

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  5. Cody Zeller Sux, Cody Zeller Sucks so dont let the door hit you in the ass

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