CHICAGO - There's a thought that Indiana post player Cody Zeller would have gone in the top five of last year's NBA draft.
Maybe the 7-footer will still end up as a lottery pick in next month's draft. But choosing to remain in Bloomington for one more year has affected his draft stock.
That could entice the 76ers, who will likely have the 11th pick, into drafting him. At least that's what ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford believes. Ford predicts in his mock draft that the franchise, in desperate need of a big man, will select the 230-pounder.
For now, the only certainty is that the Sixers interviewed Zeller here at the NBA draft combine.
"I think I'll fit in well there," said Zeller, who met with a total of 10 teams on Wednesday and Thursday.
But drafting him could be viewed as a risk for a franchise coming off a 34-win season.
Zeller does several things soundly. He has a high basketball IQ, runs the floor well, is skilled around the basket and has a solid mind-range game. However, he lacks strength and the physicality needed to flourish in the paint.
"There are no real go-to strengths that are going to lift him in depth charts to make him one of the top post players in the NBA," said an NBA Scout, who asked to remain anonymous.
The scout views Zeller as nothing more than a very solid rotation player.
"I don't see him mandating, requiring major touches to a team he goes to as a rookie," he said. "Maybe [he will demand it in] the second or third year.
"I think that's why he entered the season as considered at top five pick as opposed to right now being in that six to 12 range."
But Zeller, whose brother Tyler was a rookie center with Cleveland, doesn't believe he made the wrong decision by staying at Indiana for another season. The additional time gave scouts added to time to critique his game.
"Last year, I just wasn't ready to grow up," he said. "I loved everything about Bloomington on and off the basketball court. I wasn't as close to finishing my degree as I was hoping after my freshman year."
Now, he's only 35 credits shy from graduating from Indiana's renowned Kelly School of Business. Zeller plans to spend two summers finishing up his course work.
"It's definitely in reach at this point," he said of getting his degree.
And despite folks jumping off his bandwagon, Zeller said he will bring a lot of things to a franchise.
"My work ethic and I pride myself on winning," he said. "It's always what I've done throughout college and high school. So I think I can bring that to an NBA team."