Position: Power forward/Center
Expected Draft Position: Mid to late lottery
College career: If you watch college basketball, you're probably pretty familiar with Cody Zeller. The Indiana center was one of the top players in the nation during both of his college campaigns, being named a second team All-American after his sophomore season as well as leading Indiana to the Sweet 16 both years he attended the school.
While Zeller could have easily been a lottery pick in 2012, he willingly went back to college in order to get a second chance at a title. Like his highly-touted teammate Victor Oladipo, Zeller developed a reputation for unselfish play and is widely expected to be taken in the lottery.
Offense: Zeller has drawn a lot of comparisons to Pau Gasol and, when it comes to his post game and basketball IQ, they're not too far off. Zeller is a rarity among bigs in that he can not only score with either hand with his back to the basket but can also roll to the rim on pick and rolls. He also has excellent shooting mechanics (76 percent from the line both seasons) and the touch to suggest that he'll eventually become a reliable pick and pop weapon even though he didn't show that off in college. Realistically, he should be able to put up 15 points a night in a supporting role with a decent efficiency level by his second year in the NBA.
The bad news: Zeller has short arms and doesn't finish well around length, and that could be his downfall as a pro. Zeller made 66 percent of his shots at the rim last season and, while that's not bad per se, it could be better. If he has trouble making shots over 6'8 guys with no chance of a pro career, what's going to happen when people like Andre Drummond and Derrick Favors are guarding him? Especially considering how much of his offense consisted of shots around the basket, this is a big red flag.
Defense: Zeller has a high basketball IQ, plays hard and moves his feet well when guarding pick and rolls. That said, those short arms hurt him here, too. Zeller blocked a decent number of shots but his standing reach of 8'10 is more in line with a lanky small forward (it's the exact same as Martell Webster's and Thaddeus Young's) than a rim-protecting big man.
It's also worth mentioning that Zeller was frequently bullied around the basket and, as a result, was a mediocre rebounder. He should improve as he gains strength but, at least initially, he's going to struggle on the defensive glass. After averaging 9.2 rebounds per pace adjusted 40 minutes as a freshman, he managed to up that number to almost 11 as a sophomore, though, so at least he's moving in the right direction.
Pro potential/Wizards fit: If going with Anthony Bennett represents swinging for the fences and drafting Otto Porter represents playing it safe, taking Zeller might serve as a nice compromise. I worry that he'll be too much of a tweener on defense once he hits the NBA, but it's still easy to envision him having a nice career as a player who can hit a jumper, get to the basket against some of the league's slower 4s and draw fouls by the bushel. That's pretty much exactly what Washington needs right now and, if you can overlook his defensive shortcomings and current lack of strength, it'd make sense to take a serious look at him.
That said, he just might not be worth it. As the NBA becomes more perimeter-oriented, it becomes more and more important that whoever anchors a defense can protect the rim without fouling and I don't see Zeller becoming that guy. A few years ago, he might have been able to play power forward full time but, in this age of stretch fours and combo forwards, he's probably going to find his permanent home in the middle. Considering his lack of defensive upside, that might not be a good thing for the Wizards.