With the NBA Draft just weeks away, Wiz of Awes will be doing a mock draft, which we’ll break down each pick for every lottery team, including the Washington Wizards. [Completed Mock Draft: 1) Cleveland, 2) Orlando, 3) Washington Wizards, 4) Charlotte, 5) Phoenix, 6) New Orleans 7) Sacramento 8) Detroit 9) Minnesota ]
10) Portland Trail Blazers: Cody Zeller, PF/C, Indiana
Basic Stats: 16.5 PPG, 8.1 REB, 1.3 AST, 1.3 BLK
Unlike former Maryland Terrapin Alex Len and various other big men in this years NBA Draft, Cody Zeller isn’t receiving much buzz surrounding the draft process. Even though Zeller was previously ranked first on most mock drafts prior to the NCAA season, Zeller’s stock plummeted during the course of the year.
Big men are always needed, which causes their stock to fluctuate on draft day. On occasion, a team picking high in the draft will likely gamble on a talented big man in the lottery, just for the sake of acquiring a talented big man. There are certainly a lack of skilled bigs in the league, which makes it much more possible for Cody Zeller to move up on draft boards on June 27th.
Regardless, if the draft unfolds as we currently have it, the Portland Trail Blazers have to take the best player available, that being Cody Zeller. The former Hoosier was exposed this past season at Indiana, struggling mightily against stronger defenders, making him virtually useless on the court. Zeller was essentially bullied on numerous occasions, making his vulnerabilities pretty evident. If Zeller was neutralized by stronger defenders in college, how will he be able to stack up against 7 footers in the best league in the world?
But…that still doesn’t change the fact that Zeller is one of the most offensively talented players in the draft. As I mentioned earlier, there aren’t many skilled big men in the NBA that possess the talent Zeller has. At just 20 years old, Zeller has the post moves of an established veteran player. His ability to stretch the floor a bit could certainly help him transition to the NBA, where offenses tend to rely on various pick and roll plays. In fact, I’ve seen comparisons likening Zeller to that of LaMarcus Aldridge, who would become his partner in crime in this particular scenario.
I realize that the Trail Blazers drafted Meyers Leonard 11th overall last season, but I don’t think have two good young big men is necessarily a bad problem to have. J.J Hickson is currently a freeagent, and the Blazers would have two legitimate replacement options with Leonard and Zeller. Not to mention, Zeller is an elite athlete which could certainly help compliment Aldridge. Zeller recorded a 35.5″ vertical leap at the NBA Draft combine, which is the highest vertical every recorded for a player 6’9 or taller in the last decade. Needless to say, his offensive skill combined with his ridiculous athleticism could make him a serious option right out of the gate.
With the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year at the helm, Portland is on their way towards future success. Adding another skilled big to play with Damian Lillard certainly couldn’t hurt.