Zeller is another Hoosier to keep an eye on in NBA draft

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 27, 2013 - 7:27 AM

Cody Zeller is a 7-footer who can stretch the floor with his offensive skills.


Timberwolves fans await Thursday’s NBA draft wondering just how far new President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders might stretch to select a coveted player from Indiana University.

The answer, as improbable as it seems, might be nowhere at all.

Yes, of course, he’ll probably have to move both heaven and Derrick Williams — and perhaps more — to rise from the ninth pick into the top four or even top two so he can draft Indiana shooting guard Victor Oladipo.

Or he just might keep the Wolves right where they’re at and choose instead Oladipo’s college teammate, big man Cody Zeller.


Everybody knows the Wolves desperately want shooters and a guard who stands taller and stronger than 6-1 shooting guard Luke Ridnour. They are needs that likely have Oladipo, Kansas’ Ben McLemore and Georgia’s Kentavio us Caldwell-Pope atop Saunders’ wish list.

That’s why they could trade their other first-round pick — No. 26 overall — to Brooklyn for third-year guard MarShon Brooks on draft night.

And if Saunders does that deal or if Caldwell-Pope is gone before No. 9, might he choose a player he projects as an NBA “stretch four,” a power forward who, just like two-time All-Star Kevin Love and Williams, stretches defenses with his outside shooting?

“We’re going to take the best player,” Saunders said. “When it comes down to it, you have needs and you want to try to meet those needs. But if there’s somebody you feel [will] be a top-type guy, you take him. People haven’t done that and they’ve missed out.”

Saunders specifically mentioned the Portland Trail Blazers, who in 1984 selected big man Sam Bowie over a guy named Michael Jordan because the team had just drafted promising shooting guard Clyde Drexler the summer before.

He also recalled Kansas star Paul Pierce falling from top-three consideration to a No. 10 pick by Boston in the 1998 draft after guys such as Michael Olowokandi, Raef LaFrentz and Robert Traylor went ahead of him.

“If you think somebody — and I’m not comparing them — has a chance to be a really good player in this league for a long time, you have to go with that, even if it’s not one of your needs,” said Saunders, who added he doesn’t see a top-ranked player falling like that this time around. “And you have to reform your roster a little bit.”

In addition to their need for a starting shooting guard, the Wolves could use another center both to back up starter Nikola Pekovic in case they don’t guarantee Greg Stiemsma’s $2.5 million salary for next season by July 17, and as insurance if Pekovic signs a restricted free-agent offer sheet with another team that is just too rich for them to match next month.

Zeller is a 7-footer, but Saunders is adamant that Zeller isn’t a center but rather a skilled, freakishly athletic player — bouncy like his older brothers Tyler and Luke, both of whom either play or played in the NBA — who’s best utilized running the floor and facing the basket out on the floor with the ball.

He might have been a top three-pick in last summer’s draft after an impressive freshman season, but this year he could drop out of the top 10 after a lousy performance against Syracuse’s long and athletic front line in an NCAA tournament loss and too many nights such as the one when Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe outmuscled him when the then-No. 1-ranked Hoosiers lost at Williams Arena last winter.

He also could go as high as No. 2 to Orlando. That’s how unpredictable this year’s draft is.

“I don’t worry about it at all,” Zeller said when asked about speculation that he could have been a top-three pick last year. “We had such a talented team and I’m a team-first kind of guy, so seriously I couldn’t care less what my draft status was throughout the year as long as we were winning. I’m going to end up in a good spot no matter what.”

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New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Portland 0 Postponed
Brooklyn 0
Sacramento 0 Postponed
New York 0
Philadelphia 27 2nd Qtr 9:41
New Orleans 34
Minnesota 19 2nd Qtr 10:16
Oklahoma City 31
Orlando 31 2nd Qtr 10:28
Memphis 38
Boston 8:00 PM
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LA Clippers
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American Univ 52
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Detroit 40
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North Carolina 70
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Oakland 53
Delaware State 43 2nd Half 6:32
NC Central 44
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Presbyterian 48
Howard 25 2nd Half
Bethune-Cookman 27
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NC A&T 32
Nicholls 31 2nd Half 16:02
Northwestern St 47
Hampton 27 2nd Half 19:44
SC State 31
Gardner-Webb 23 1st Half 3:58
Campbell 28
MD-Eastern Shore 4 1st Half 14:30
Florida A&M 8
Stephen F Austin 21 1st Half 7:38
Lamar 10
Central Arkansas 24 1st Half 6:35
New Orleans 38
Norfolk State 25 1st Half 4:52
Savannah State 17
TX A&M-CC 14 1st Half 4:30
SE Louisiana 20
Sam Houston St 29 1st Half 8:27
Abilene Christian 13
McNeese State 37 1st Half 3:50
Incarnate Word 27
Milwaukee 12 1st Half 3:22
Valparaiso 34
Alcorn State 7:30 PM
Alabama A&M
Southern U 7:30 PM
Alabama State
Prairie View 8:00 PM
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Texas 8:00 PM
Iowa State
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Miss Valley St
Long Island 85 FINAL
Bryant 88
Central Conn St 51 FINAL
St Francis-NY 49
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Sacred Heart 0
St Francis-PA 87 FINAL
Wagner 74
Delaware State 59 FINAL
NC Central 66
Howard 53 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 61
Coppin State 49 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 88 FINAL
SC State 53
Norfolk State 54 FINAL
Savannah State 56
MD-Eastern Shore 54 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Angelo State 55 FINAL
Abilene Christian 70
Samford 32 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 49
Prairie View 83 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Alcorn State 58 FINAL
Alabama A&M 55
Southern U 53 FINAL
Alabama State 49
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 52
(12) Texas A&M 44 2nd Half 9:01
(1) South Carolina 60
Robert Morris 65 2nd Half 2:27
Mount St Marys 44
East Tenn St 68 2nd Half 3:49
Mercer 62
Wofford 54 2nd Half 3:20
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Tenn Tech 48
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Michigan 63
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