Take Thomas Robinson, for example. He was a consensus All-American as a junior and led Kansas to the national title game. By virtually all accounts, he was projected as a solid NBA player.
But Robinson, a power forward, was drafted by the Sacramento Kings, who already had DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson and Chuck Hayes manning their big positions.
So Robinson languished on the bench for half a season before being dealt to the Houston Rockets – who already had three rookie power forwards. He didn’t get the opportunity he needed with either team and was labeled a disappointment.
Now word out of Houston is that GM Daryl Morey is looking to move Robinson without taking any salary in return to clear the cap space needed to max out Dwight Howard. So Robinson likely is headed to a third team before his third-year option is even picked up.
There are a handful of players in the 2013 draft whose futures will be impacted by the team selecting them. Some will be perfect fits for open slots; others will be buried on a bench behind established veterans and never get the chance to show their abilities.
Here’s a look at three whose fortunes could depend on which team drafts them.
Coming into his sophomore 2012-13 campaign, the big man was supposed to have a banner year – literally – for the Hoosiers.
Zeller didn’t quite meet those expectations this season, but he certainly had his moments and showed flashes of brilliance while in Bloomington.
Does he have to work on using his length, strength, lower body and shoulders to finish even better? Sure, but he ran the floor hard, finished in the paint and proved he has a nice touch on his shots as well.
One of the biggest adjustments to the NBA for Zeller likely will be in pick-and-pop situations in space. Zeller has playmaker skills that weren’t always evident at Indiana; he should be an above-average playmaker for a big man at the next level.
Moreover, Zeller has a better touch on his jump shot than I believe most people care to realize, which will be a valuable tool playing with an NBA level point guard – as long as he’s willing to shoot it.
“It wasn’t in our game plan for me to shoot outside as much,” Zeller told me recently at the NBA Draft combine in Chicago. “But I have that ability and I think I’ll be able to show that ability in the workouts with the NBA teams and I’ll be doing a lot more of that at the next level.”
There are also questions regarding whether Zeller can bang in the paint on a nightly basis. While this is an area that has yet to be determined, the game has been leaning more and more toward big men who can step out to the perimeter to shoot. Zeller will fit in just well if he’s not too passive.
Zeller’s excellent combine numbers only help his cause. People weren’t sure how athletic Zeller was, but by posting the highest standing vertical at the combine he has proven he is an athlete.
Zeller figures to go late in the lottery, where Philadelphia, Oklahoma City and Dallas all are looking for frontcourt depth for various reasons and would be good landing spots. Bad fits would be Minnesota and Detroit, but he does not look as if he will go that high.
When asked to explain his game, the versatile swingman said, “A person who goes hard every possession. Take no plays off. I’m not out there to look pretty. I’m out there to win. If the ball is on the floor, I’m gonna get on the ground, do whatever it takes. I just want to be a winner. I’m a real competitor and I hate losing.”
This year, Franklin led the Aztecs in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks while guarding multiple positions at a high level.