Which Indiana Star Has the Brighter NBA Future: Cody Zeller or Victor Oladipo?

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterFebruary 24, 2013

Jan 7, 2013; University Park, PA, USA; Indiana Hoosiers guard Victor Oladipo (4) dribbles the ball up court in front of forward Cody Zeller (40) and Penn State Nittany Lions forward Sasa Borovnjak (21) during the second half at the Bryce Jordan Center.  Indiana defeated Penn State 74-51.  Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Entering the 2012-13 college basketball season, Indiana had one elite prospect knocking on the NBA's door. Now it has two.

Victor Oladipo has joined Cody Zeller to form arguably the most lethal duo in America. And these aren't just great college players who will disappear after school. These are future NBA studs capable of impacting the direction of a franchise. 

Over the past several weeks, there's been a lot of chatter about Oladipo being the best NBA prospect on Indiana. I'm here to put that thought to rest.

I don't think there's any question that Oladipo is a rotational guard at the next level. But he's not someone who will be featured in an offense the way Cody Zeller can be in the post.


Projected Roles

Forget the Dwyane Wade comparisons for Victor Oladipo. Don't let his explosive drives to hoop cloud your judgement of who he is.

What makes a player like Wade such an NBA superstar is his ability to create and convert offense from all over the court.

The difference between Wade and Oladipo is that Wade is able to separate in the mid-range and create easy scoring opportunities with a step-back or pull-up jump shot. A defense can always take away driving lanes, but there's only so much one can do to stop a perimeter scorer from being able to hit off-balance jumpers in the 15- to 25-foot range.

Technically, a fadeaway or pull-up jumper is a counter to a defense that's difficult to penetrate against.

Oladipo shoots a staggering 63.9 percent from the floor. One of the reasons he's so efficient is because practically 80 percent of his offense comes right at the rim. But if he wants to expand his game to the point where he's a feared everyday scorer, he'll need to add a dimension of offense in between spotting up and takes to the rack.

Oladipo just doesn't project as an isolation scorer at the next level. This is a guy who's going to slash off the ball, get tips at the rim, spot up on the perimeter and lock down opposing guards.

He's going to be a role player, and there's nothing wrong with that. The best NBA teams have the most reliable supporting casts. But his value won't be as high as an offensive-minded center who can be counted on as a source for half-court points.

Cody Zeller has the chance to change the balance of an NBA lineup.

Zeller is easily the most polished post scorer in the country, with go-to moves and countermoves that make him an unpredictable assignment. He's a threat with his back to the basket, with the ability to turn over either shoulder or spin off his man. Zeller can also face the rim using a deceivingly quick first step and attack his defender off the bounce.

With the rock in his hands, Zeller has a bag full of tricks that he can use at his disposal.

It's a lot harder to score the ball when the game is slowed down than it is when the pace picks up. Zeller has the chance to become a featured post option for a half-court offense.

And because he's such a tough one-on-one cover in the post, he's going to command double-teams which help space the floor and create opportunities.

From a physical standpoint, Zeller is an excellent athlete at 6'11" and should have no trouble getting off his shot at the next level.

He reminds me a lot of Brook Lopez. Zeller is more of a finesse scorer who uses his touch to convert instead of strength and power. Like Lopez, Zeller is mostly an under-the-rim big man, which affects his ability to rebound consistently and protect the goal. But offensively, that's where these two shine.


Victor Oladipo vs. Cody Zeller

Both Oladipo and Zeller are going to be great in their respective roles, but one will have more value as an NBA player.

Cody Zeller is recognized as a good bet to go somewhere in the top five of the 2013 NBA draft. Because of his refined offensive skill set, coaches will make sure he sees routine touches on a possession-by-possession basis. He's a guy you can give the ball to and watch him go to work.

Oladipo is going to be awesome for a team that needs someone to make plays without disrupting the flow of the offense. Because of Oladipo's ability to produce without utilizing the dribble, you can insert him into any lineup as a two-way complementary contributor.

But off-ball contributors aren't franchise cornerstones. They're gap-fillers. You plug guys like Oladipo in between the major building blocks.

And Cody Zeller has a chance to be one of those major franchise building blocks.