Zeller and Oladipo Watch: Two-Month Report Card

Over the past two months, I’ve given a weekly recap of former IU stars Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo. Now that we are in 2014 it’s time to look back at how Zeller and Oladipo fared as pros during the last two months of 2013. I will be grading them on their stats, the overall impact on their teams, and if they have lived up to expectations.

They both still have time to improve in all three phases but for now, let’s see how they have done so far:

Victor Oladipo: Guard, Orlando Magic:

Vs Detroit (W 109-92): 16 points (5-12 FG) (5-8 FT), 5 rebounds, 11 assists, steal, turnover, 5 personal fouls, 37 minutes.

Vs Atlanta (W 109-102): 15 points (4-7 FG) (6-8 FT), 5 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, block, 5 turnovers, 5 personal fouls, 29 minutes.

Vs Golden State (L 94-81): 8 points (3-7 FG) (2-2 FT), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 turnovers, 2 personal fouls, 17 minutes.

@ Cleveland (L 87-81 OT): 6 points (3-9 FG), 4 rebounds, assist, 2 blocks, 3 turnovers, 2 personal fouls, 26 minutes.

Statistics: Among rookies, he is in the top six of points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks per game. If he were to never play another NBA game his 12.7 points per game would rank him 8th all-time among pro basketball players to come out of Indiana University, just behind Mike Woodson and just ahead of John Logan. The turnovers were a big issue earlier in the season and while he is still prone to having big turnover games, he has limited them better and finally has a positive assist-to-turnover ratio. The main problem is shooting and it’s not surprising given that he really only had one good shooting year at IU.

Still 40 percent overall shooting is borderline mediocre and his 27 percent three-point shooting is ugly. We’ve seen him improve his shooting in the past so there is hope that he will develop into a better shooter later in his career but for now, he is a bit fit to be a rim penetrator. Grade: B+

Impact on Magic: For a guy who doesn’t yet have a position he has done a decent job contributing to the Magic. He has had stretches during games where he would score six or eight straight points to put the Magic ahead or put the game out of reach, which is what great players do. He’s also been a negative for the team when he turned the ball over eight or nine times in a single game. Until either Jameer Nelson or Arron Afflalo is traded we won’t witness the full offensive impact from Oladipo but it is already apparent that the defensive impact is there, evidenced by his highlight real blocks and ability to pickpocket ball-handlers. Grade: C+

Expectations: Oladipo has labeled the surest thing in the 2013 NBA draft and he has proven everyone right. He has shown his ability to be a great defender averaging one and a half steals and three-quarters of a block per game. His comparison was Tony Allen with a better offensive game and while the defensive part of his game looks spot on the “better offensive game” part has yet to show up. While he has shown flashes of a good offensive game, Oladipo is averaging only two more points than Allen and is taking three more shots and two more free throws a game.

As stated in the stats section we have seen Oladipo improve his shooting before and it would be very conceivable to see those numbers improve in the coming seasons, but for now, a direct comparison to Tony Allen will have to do. Grade: B

Overall: Oladipo sometimes gets unfairly picked apart because he was the number two pick in the draft but the truth is that he is still developing into the player he will ultimately become. He’s shown a tendency to improve every offseason and I expect to see him leap during his second season into a consistently good player. For now, he will continue to go through the ups and downs and hopefully learn from them. He will probably lose the Rookie of the Year award to Trey Burke or Michael Carter-Williams but I believe he will be the better pro down the line as he continues to find his ceiling. Final Grade: B

Cody Zeller: Forward, Charlotte Bobcats:

Vs Oklahoma City (L 89-85): 3 points (0-5 FG) (3-4 FT), 4 rebounds, assist, steal, 4 turnovers, personal foul, 16 minutes.

@ Atlanta (L 118-116 OT): 2 points (1-8 FG), 3 rebounds, 2 assists, steal, 5 personal fouls, 12 minutes.

@ Utah (L 83-80): 2 points (1-1 FG), assist, personal foul, 5 minutes.

@ Los Angeles Clippers (L 112-85): 6 points (0-6 FG) (6-6 FT), 4 rebounds, assist, 2 steals, turnover, 3 personal fouls, 20 minutes.

@ Portland (L 134-104): 5 points (1-6 FG) (3-4 FT), 5 rebounds, assist, steal, turnover, personal foul, 17 minutes.

Statistics: For a guy who consistently shot around 60 percent in college it is startling to see him shoot only 36 percent, the lowest among qualified rookies, like a pro. That above everything is the most telling stat but there are some positives. Zeller has been able to convert from the free-throw line making 76 percent of his freebies. Although he rarely got assists in college he has improved to average a little over one a game. Lastly, and the biggest positive for Zeller, is that he has proven he can rebound in the NBA. He’s averaging 4.1 rebounds in 17.4 minutes a game which when converted to 48 minutes is 11.2, good for 5th among qualified rookies who also play at least 10 minutes a game. While it might not seem very impressive at first, rebounding was one of the biggest question marks for Zeller during the draft as scouts didn’t think he could get the ball when facing opposing bigs. If Zeller has proved one thing in his first two months it’s that he can rebound in the NBA. Grade: C-

Impact on Bobcats: Zeller has been one of the first players off the bench which shows that his coach Steve Clifford does have some faith in him but hasn’t produced any spectacular numbers. Clifford has run the offense through Zeller a couple of times with mixed results and will most likely build upon that in the coming offseason. The team as a whole has been better and while Zeller has a history of making the teams he is on better you can’t put all or even much of it on Zeller. Yet he has remained a team player and never complained which can only mean good things for him in the future. Grade: D+

Expectations: Zeller was never meant to be judged as a top-five pick. He was projected to be an end of the lottery selection and honestly, that would have been a better fit for him like the Thunder at the 12th pick. Instead, he was selected fourth by the Bobcats and seen as a flop. The Thunder selected Steven Adams with the 12th pick and both have around the same stats but Adams is seen as a steal. I’m not insinuating that Adams isn’t very good it’s just that Zeller should be judged the same way Adams is by experts. If anything Zeller is doing the best he can in a loaded frontcourt and has shown an ability to rebound, which was questioned by many scouts. But in terms of fourth overall picks, he has been a disappointment. Grade: C-

Overall: It’s no secret that Zeller hasn’t been a good professional but he hasn’t been as bad as some people think. He has a solid case for Jalen Rose’s theory of “Being drafted by the wrong team”, as he is in a loaded frontcourt that doesn’t really need Zeller’s skills. The shooting needs to improve but it could be as simple as a spacing problem since most of Zeller’s shots are out of the paint. I’m not ready to give up on Zeller but at the same time he needs to improve his shot and adapt to the professional game’s speed if he doesn’t want to be another member of the “Great college player, terrible pro player club.” Final Grade: C-

Season averages:

Victor Oladipo: 12.7ppg, 4.2rpg, 3.6apg, 1.50spg, 0.75bpg, 3.3tpg, 2.9fpg, 40.1% FG, 27.2% 3FG, 74.4% FT, 30.3mpg

Cody Zeller: 5.2ppg, 4.1rpg, 1.1apg, 0.53spg, 0.44bpg, 1.3tpg, 2.2fpg, 35.8% FG, 75.9% FT, 17.4mpg

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