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.”
After months of mock drafts, workouts and interviews, Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo will learn their new homes tonight when their names are called in the NBA Draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
In our final edition of draft watch, we’ll look at final mock draft predictions as of Monday morning, an updated scout’s take and give our best fit at the next level for both players:
ESPN: (2 to Orlando) Draft Express: (5 to Phoenix) NBADraft.net: (2 to Orlando) Sports Illustrated: (5 to Phoenix)
· Analysis: Of the four major mocks tracked for the final draft watch, two have Oladipo going to Orlando at No. 2. This is, of course, contingent on Cleveland taking Nerlens Noel at No. 1. If the Cavs opt for Alex Len at No. 1, the Magic would likely opt for Noel at No. 2, which would also shake up subsequent picks. Oladipo doesn’t seem to be in play at No. 3 (Washington) or No. 4 (Charlotte), so if the Magic pass, he’d likely be the pick for Phoenix at No. 5. Minnesota is another team that has strong interest in Oladipo, but would need to move up from No. 9 in order to pick him.
· Best Fit: If the choice is between landing in Orlando or Phoenix, and it appears that it is, the Magic are a much better fit for Oladipo. They have a relatively new GM in Rob Hennigan, who worked for San Antonio and Oklahoma City prior to being hired in Orlando and is well thought of in NBA circles at just 31 years old. Phoenix, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have ownership that is committed to winning, which is a recipe for a permanent spot in the lottery.
· Scout Says: “Love his makeup. Great worker. On defense he plays like Tony Allen. He took very limited attempts to get that high (three-point) percentage. My question is, has he had his big jump already of improvement? The fact that he’s a top five pick is an indictment of this draft.” — Anonymous scout to Seth Davis.
Cody Zeller came to Indiana with impossible expectations.
And so maybe there’s some freedom and change on the horizon as he makes the leap to the next level.
He’s no longer the program savior taking the Hoosiers back to the promised land. Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine won’t be asking him to grace their covers this season. The golden boy glamour fades, and he simply becomes another young kid trying to establish himself during the grueling slog of an 82-game NBA season — arriving in cities he’s never visited in the middle of cold winter nights.
His relative anonymity may also lead to a basketball re-invention.
Tom Crean asked Zeller to do what was best for the team in the halfcourt — use his height and athleticism to either score or draw fouls and go to the line. It was a role, for the most part, he excelled at. The 2012-13 Hoosiers had plenty of perimeter shooters in an offense that led the nation in efficiency for most of the season; Zeller’s offense outside of the post simply wasn’t needed. But the Washington native’s back-to-the-basket game wasn’t always smooth. It’s unlikely his best path to offensive success in the league, especially against bigger and better talent. (Though that’s not to say he can’t get buckets at the rim. He’ll just need to pick his spots.)
So Zeller may have to look elsewhere to bring offensive value in the NBA. He can use his quickness in a face-up game when the matchup calls for it. (If he lands at No. 10 to Portland, LaMarcus Aldridge would be a great mentor to show him the ropes here.) But it’s perhaps more likely that his jumper that never really saw the light of day in Bloomington will be most essential for Zeller if he wants to become a consistent starter or rotation player.
Former Indiana All-American Cody Zeller did a radio tour on Monday afternoon in advance of Thursday’s NBA Draft, making stops on several national shows, including “The Hayes Advantage” on Bloomberg Radio.
With host Kathleen Hayes, Zeller discussed his viewpoint on compensation for college athletes, his decision to enter the draft, the style of play he’d best fit with in the NBA and much more.
Here’s a transcript of the interview, in Q & A format, via Bloomberg Radio.
On whether he is pleased he stayed in school an extra year over entering last year’s NBA draft:
“Yes. I was definitely excited to stay two years at Indiana. I could have left after my freshman year, but a big part of it had to do with not being as close to graduating as I am now. Right now I’m 35 credits from graduating from the Kelley School of Business after two years, so that’s definitely within reach now.”
On how tough the decision was to enter draft this year coming from a family that values education:
“It was tough for me, but like I said I’m within reach on it to go back for two summers to finish up, but education is important to our whole family just because you’ve got to have something to do after your basketball career ends. So it is very important to me.”
On the biggest challenge he faces moving to the NBA:
“I think it will be an adjustment just moving to a new city where I won’t know anyone, being 20 years old and on my own. And I think after I get settled in and meet new people that I don’t think it will be a huge adjustment for me, but I’m definitely excited to figure out where I’m going so I can find a place to live and start getting going with all this.”
On critics who feel he should have entered the draft last year:
“No. I don’t worry about that at all. Like I said, an education is a big part of me, so I’m closer to graduating. And we had a great year this year and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
On whether he is surprised more players do not think about education:
“Yes. Somewhat. I think college basketball, playing here in the U.S. in college basketball is unlike anything else, playing in March Madness, playing against the best competition, for me personally I wouldn’t trade that for anything if I had the opportunity.”
On whether NCAA players should be compensated: