At 7-1, Len has room to add more bulk. As long as he keeps his athleticism, he will intrigue any team in the top five. With Noel’s injury, Len could be the biggest beneficiary as he is younger, bigger, longer, and more athletic than Cody Zeller. Don’t be surprised to see Len go first overall.
Cody Zeller, C, Indiana
Zeller, a Preseason Player of the Year candidate, started the season in somewhat disappointing fashion. Many around the NBA believed Zeller could be the top pick and the best player in the country this season. While he has not dominated enough to be considered the top pick, Zeller could be a dark horse candidate, especially as he leads Indiana in March.
It’s easy to see why scouts and GMs are so intrigued by Zeller. Not many bigs can step out and shoot with his range or beat their man off the dribble. Despite an extremely slender frame, Zeller is very good around the basket, often relying on his polished repertoire of moves and counters.
Defense is Zeller’s major problem. Not one official from any team I spoke with felt Zeller was ready to defend NBA bigs. As one executive said, “His brother (Tyler) is getting pushed around and abused and he looks like a grown man next to Cody.” This sentiment highlights the biggest question about Zeller’s position in the NBA. While Zeller is not an elite rebounder, he works tirelessly for every loose ball.
As the league continues to embrace smaller lineups, there is more of a necessity for Zeller to have to man the middle. Until he gets considerably stronger, he will be a major liability defensively. Come draft night, Zeller could easily slide into the top-3.
Isaiah Austin, C, Baylor
Austin is not your typical 7-footer as he has impressive perimeter skills and plenty of range on his jumper. In transition Austin’s speed, explosiveness, and basketball IQ is really something, too. At Baylor, coach Scott Drew has a track record with athletic bigs that can play on the perimeter, and Austin might be the best prospect yet.
On game film, Austin looks like a rangy forward similar to Dirk Nowitzki or Kevin Garnett. In spite of all of Austin’s talent and skills, he has not dominated as a freshman. The weakest part of Austin’s game is definitely his post game as he is not strong enough to handle physical defenders and seems more comfortable on the perimeter.
Austin is an intriguing defender that is capable of defending multiple positions but needs to add bulk to handle the rigors of playing pivot. Shot-blocking and rebounding are two strengths of Austin’s game, including a 20 rebound performance against Oklahoma.
Many people will want to label Austin as a prospect with no position. But he is a matchup nightmare in the NBA as most bigs won’t be able to handle his athleticism or freakish skills. Having just turned 19, the future is very bright for Austin, a top-10 pick.