As a Charlotte Bobcats fan, many things happened to me last night.
With the Cleveland Cavaliers shocking the world by taking Anthony Bennett at No. 1 overall, and the Orlando Magic opting for Victor Oladipo instead of Ben McLemore, that left available for the Bobcats at pick No. 4 arguably the two biggest names going into this draft: Nerlens Noel, who was the top pick on a number of draft boards, and Ben McLemore, who was at or near the top, as well.
Suddenly, the Bobcats pick was much, much more attractive.
Tensions mounted. On Twitter and in a draft forum, people were frantically posting who they did and didn't want.
Cody Zeller was not mentioned in any way.
But suddenly there was Zeller's name, coming from the lips of David Stern at the podium. The Bobcats took Zeller with the No. 4 pick and apparently had no intention of trading him.
My initial feelings as his name was announced? Absolute shock.
It was a mixture of complete surprise, slight disappointment over passing on Len (who was my top prospect in the draft), and rushing relief that general manager Rich Cho and the rest of the war room decided not to take Nerlens Noel, whose knee had been red-flagged by the Phoenix Suns, who have what is widely considered the best medical staff in the NBA.
But as the shock subsided, I realized how smart of a pick it was.
The biggest difference among Zeller and Aldridge and Bosh? Zeller's combine numbers were vastly superior to those posted by Aldridge and Bosh before their respective drafts.
His combine numbers weren't just insane, they were unprecedented. Both his standing and maximum vertical leap broke combine records for big men, and his lane agility and three-quarter floor sprint scores weren't just fast for a big man.
They were fast period.
He had the among the fastest times in both categories for any position, including guards. Just how good were his combine scores? Let's compare his measurables to those of Aldridge and Bosh.
Zeller: 35.5 and 37.5 inches, Bosh: 30 and 33 inches, Aldridge: 26.5 and 34 inches.
Zeller: 10.82 seconds, Bosh: 11.8 seconds, Aldridge: 12.02 seconds.
3/4 Court Sprint
Zeller: 3.15 seconds, Bosh: 3.3 seconds, Aldridge: 3.43 seconds.
(Combine measurements courtesy of NBA.com)
Also, Zeller's wingspan measured just a shade under 6'11", considerably longer than the previously reported 6'8". He's also about an inch taller than Bosh and Aldridge.
People looked at Zeller as an athletically challenged big with short arms. Pure skill, no athleticism. Turns out people were wrong. Extremely wrong.
Zeller was booed by fans at Charlotte's NBA draft party, which was an absolute embarrassment. Booing a smart pick just because it wasn't a "sexy" one is ignorant, and Bobcats fans who openly embarrassed this franchise by booing the pick will be proven wrong by one of the most athletic bigs in recent history, and a guy who is extremely gifted on offense and defense.
Zeller will be asked to play center and power forward in Charlotte, but mostly power forward. At PF, Zeller will have a height advantage over most opposing players, and he has a set of offensive skills to warrant the lofty comparisons to Bosh and Aldridge.
He can face up and drive to the rim. He's a big leaper and finishes with excellent touch around the basket. He's active on the boards and uses his size and athleticism to get second chance points. He can score with both hands and over both shoulders, and he proved in college that he can convert plenty of hook shots.
But what has really impressed everyone in the NBA is how good of a shooter he has turned out to be.
It wasn't something Zeller was asked to do at Indiana. Take jump shots. They had plenty of guys to do that. And, at center, Zeller did what his team needed him to do and rarely had the opportunity to showcase his shooting skills.
But at the combine and at team workouts, he proved that his great shooting form allows him to hit perimeter shots with ease. He also showed in work-out situations that he could step back to the three-point line and comfortably knock down shots.
At the introductory press conference for Zeller, head coach Steve Clifford and GM Cho described his shooting abilities as "eye-opening," and it was essentially that ability that sealed the deal for the Bobcats.
The biggest complaint among fans is that they could have moved back in the draft for Zeller and picked up key assets along the way. Mock drafts had Zeller going around No. 9, and Charlotte was in discussions with Minnesota to trade the No. 4 overall pick to the T-Wolves for Derrick Williams and a pick at No. 9 to move up, per Charley Walters of The Pioneer Press.
Why didn't they do that?
It's simple. Zeller wouldn't have made it to No. 9.
Let me make myself clear. Despite my love for Alex Len and the scoring abilities of Ben McLemore, Zeller was the best pick the Bobcats could have made. He offers more rebounding, and will be a reliable stretch 4, unlike Byron Mullens, who is not receiving a qualifying offer from Charlotte.
Zeller can score in so many ways and has such a refined touch around the rim that he's going to be considered a candidate for Rookie of the Year. Between his unprecedented athleticism paired with his skill and Kemba Walker running pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop plays, Zeller is going to score a ton. And after a year with Charlotte, watching game tape of Zeller and Aldridge will be freakishly similar.
Bennett, McLemore and Zeller all have the best chance to become stars in this league.
Zeller is the ultimate underdog at this point. And he is going to emerge as possibly the best player out of this draft.
That should shut up booing fans.
Seriously, people look at us as the joke of the NBA, and fans only embarrass us more by reacting as a child who was served an apple instead of a candy bar.
Zeller's athleticism, hard-working attitude, high basketball IQ, and skills on both ends of the floor are exactly what this franchise needs at the power forward position.
The Bobcats got their man, and he will quickly become one of the major faces of this franchise.
The Big Handsome is in, folks. Like it or not. Let's see how he does in Summer League, training camp, and preseason before we start booing.
Anyway, how can you boo a guy nicknamed The Big Handsome?
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