A quarter of the way through their first NBA seasons, Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo have been thrust into very different roles.
In Orlando, the Magic, in the midst of a major rebuilding effort, are taking their lumps on their way to a 7-15 start. Oladipo was inserted into the team’s starting lineup after 10 games and he’s averaging 13.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.7 steals in 31 minutes per game.
In Charlotte, which signed free agent Al Jefferson in the offseason and currently sits in fifth place in a very weak Eastern conference outside of Indiana and Miami, the Bobcats are taking a more conservative approach with Zeller. The 7-footer is Charlotte’s first big man off the bench and is averaging 5.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 17.8 minutes per game behind veteran Josh McRoberts.
Given the very different paths the former Hoosier teammates took to make it into last June’s NBA draft lottery, it’s only fitting that each is taking a different path to becoming established in the league.
On Wednesday night, the two squared off for the first time as professionals with Oladipo’s Magic claiming a 92-83 victory in Charlotte.
The Inside the Hall Mailbag is a collection of questions tweeted to us via Twitter (@insidethehall), submitted on our premium forum and sent to us via our Facebook page. Submit your questions and we’ll answer as many as we can.
mcoghlan writes: Outside of free throws, Noah (Vonleh) has looked very impressive and seems to have a lot of potential. Do you see him eventually becoming a better player than Cody (Zeller)?
If we’re talking eventually as in one day down the line in the NBA, I’ll say maybe. If we’re talking eventually as in while at Indiana, I’ll say no. And that’s no knock on Noah Vonleh. I think he has a chance to be an outstanding player.
But Cody Zeller was just the No. 4 pick in the NBA Draft and deserves a ton of credit for Indiana winning 56 games over the past two seasons. He was the best running big man in college basketball and arguably the most efficient big last season. It’s no coincidence that Indiana went from 12 wins in 2010-2011 to 27 in 2011-2012. Zeller was not only excellent himself, he made others around him better. There’s no doubt Vonleh will be very good with a chance to be great, but Zeller has already done it so I’ll stick with him until proven otherwise. — Alex Bozich
kleeman20 writes: I guess I’m one of the few who hasn’t noticed the big improvements from (Jeremy) Hollowell and (Hanner) Perea that were touted all off season. I know it was just two exhibitions, but if those two aren’t major factors, aren’t we at best an NIT team?
Even though you haven’t seen the improvements from both Hollowell and Perea yet, they definitely have both improved over the offseason. And I think that improvement could even mean they are both much more comfortable on the court than they were in their freshman seasons.
If, for some reason, neither of them can contribute on the court, I think this team can survive. That said, the depth and experience — in both the backcourt and frontcourt — would be severely impacted, and I wouldn’t expect them to make the NCAA tournament and think the NIT would certainly be a more realistic option. That said, I see both Hollowell and Perea making contributions to this team and think that an NCAA tournament berth is certainly within reach this season. — Jordan Littman
Tom Crean addressed the media earlier this morning via teleconference to discuss Thursday’s NBA Draft. On the call, he discussed several topics, including Victor Oladipo’s work ethic, Cody Zeller’s game translating to the NBA, Christian Watford’s future and more.
Here’s the complete transcript of his comments, via ASAP Sports and IUHoosiers.com:
COACH CREAN: Thank you everybody for joining like this right in the middle of our basketball camp. We had a great night last night, relatively short night by the time everything got finalized with Christian Watford. But, nonetheless, a great, great night for everybody in Indiana, but most importantly for Victor Oladipo and his family and Cody Zeller and his family.
I think the fact that both of them went the way they did speaks volumes about their work ethic, about their character, about the intensity and competitiveness that they have. And in my mind as a coach, the greatest thing about the two of them moving forward is the upside, the tremendous upside that both of them still have. Because Victor just turned 21 in early May, and Cody’s not 21 until October.
So there is a tremendous amount of growth in those guys that we’ve had the privilege of being a part of the last couple of years; and I think that their coaching staffs, management staffs and the fan bases in both Orlando and Charlotte are going to be really, really excited, not only about what they do on the court, but I think they’re going to be blown away by what those guys are capable of in making people feel invested and a part of the program the way they’re going to be in their communities in the states as well. So I’m excited to watch all of that play out too.
Q. Victor’s reputation as an extremely hard worker is well known including here in Florida. But can you cite some examples of just how much of a hard worker he is?
COACH CREAN: Yeah, I can. In the three years that he was here, especially during the season, there might have been two days that he took off. One of them I told him not to come in. I’m talking about not just after a game or before a game or on a day off or at the end of practice, I mean, every day he came to work.
It started when he first got to Indiana. When he and Will Sheehey who is from Florida, became two freshmen that walked in and utilized our new building and started working on their games until the last day Victor was here until he headed back to D.C. two days after graduation and all that time in between.
He is an extremely gifted athlete, tremendous charisma, and just strength of will and personality. But when he gets in the gym, it is all business, and that is exactly what propelled him to so many different things. I mean, it was just common for us to practice and if we ended practice and weren’t going into films or the weight room, he stayed in the gym. Put his cones up and started to work on different things, with a coach, without a coach, with a graduate manager, and work on his shooting. Even if we went to weights and to film, he always came back out.
Former Indiana big man Cody Zeller was the No. 4 pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft to the Charlotte Bobcats. Zeller met with assembled media at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn afterward for a brief Q & A (transcript via ASAP Sports):
THE MODERATOR: Start with an opening statement about your feelings about getting drafted.
CODY ZELLER: I’m so excited for Charlotte, playing with the Bobcats. It’s an unbelievable feeling. It’s one of my top choices just because it’s a young group of guys with Kemba Walker and Kidd?Gilchrist especially. Guys with good motors that play the right way. They get up and run. It’s a good group of young guys. Charlotte seems like a great city. I think all around it’s a great fit for me.
Q. Cody, we talked before and you said you don’t think you’re going to be around in the end of the lottery. How soon did you know you were going to Charlotte?
CODY ZELLER: I was just kidding my agent because he didn’t bail me out. He didn’t tell me. I didn’t know until David Stern announced it. It’s a crazy process not knowing, but I’m definitely excited that I ended up with the Bobcats.
Q. Cody, I wanted to ask you about, Charlotte hasn’t been the most stable organization in the past few years. Talk about going into that organization. Do you feel there’s extra pressure, putting pressure on yourself and your teammates to be able to try to turn it around as quickly as possible?
CODY ZELLER: I’ve always dealt with pressure growing up with two older brothers through high school, through college. So I don’t think that will affect me too much. I’m ready to go in there to work and make a difference. Bringing my work ethic every day and see where it takes me.
Q. Were you a Michael Jordan fan growing up? And have you talked to him at all during this whole process?
CODY ZELLER: Yeah, a huge fan obviously. One of the, if not the, best player to ever play the game. It is unbelievable. It’s unbelievable I’ll be able to talk with him and learn from him. It will be an unbelievable experience for me.
Q. Cody, the Charlotte Bobcats really don’t have that franchise guy. Can you be that franchise guy?
CODY ZELLER: I’m not worried about the title of franchise guy or anything. I’m going to come in and try to be the hardest-working guy, is what I’m going to try to be. Hopefully the other guys there will follow my lead or I’ll join them, if it’s a good group of hard-working guys, then the team is going to start winning.
It didn’t take long for Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller to go off the board in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
Oladipo was selected No. 2 overall by the Orlando Magic and Zeller went two picks later to the Charlotte Bobcats at No. 4.
Both players were selected before Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, who was widely expected to be the top overall selection but slipped to No. 6.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Oladipo told reporters at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. “They’re in a rebuilding process. I’m just glad they chose me so I could be a part of that. In Indiana we had a huge rebuilding process, so I know what it takes. I’m looking forward to going there and working hard and playing at a high level and help impact winning.”
Oladipo, who was ranked in the 140’s by multiple national recruiting services coming out of high school, averaged 13.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game for the Hoosiers last season. He continued to climb the draft boards throughout the season and into the offseason when he impressed at the May draft combine in Chicago.
The Magic won only 20 years a season ago, so Oladipo will be part of a rebuilding project in Orlando. Jameer Nelson and Aaron Afflalo made up Orlando’s starting backcourt last season, but Afflalo has been mentioned in several recent trade rumors and could be moved before the summer is over.
The Magic also have E’Twaun Moore and Doron Lamb at the shooting guard position.
“We’re really excited,” Magic general manager Rob Hennigan told ESPN. “Victor’s a guy we followed all year long. We just really like what he’s about and we like his work ethic. We feel like he plays efficient basketball.”