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And Another Thing

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Cody Zeller

IU: Waiting for the other shoe to drop

This was a couple of weeks ago, right after Indiana exited March Madness stage left, possibly before the shock had worn off. So I'll give this Indiana fan I bumped into the benefit of the doubt.

"I don't think either Zeller or Oladipo is going pro," Indiana Fan said.

Um, OK.

"Neither one of 'em are ready," he went on. "And I don't think Oladipo's an NBA player. I expect to see him in the D-League."

Like I said: Shock. And maybe a dash or two of wishful thinking.

Because, listen, nothing short of gridlock in Washington was more sure than what happened today, which was Victor Oladipo announcing he was going to the NBA. He's graduating in May, for one thing. For another, the pros love, absolutely love, everything about the kid, and in particular what the kid can become. His stock will never be higher after making a quantum leap this season from nice player to possibly transcendent player.

So, he goes, and good for him. And now everyone waits to see what Cody Zeller will do.

Word has it he'll announce tomorrow, and if he doesn't also take his leave I'll be stunned. I didn't used to think this way. As recently as two weeks ago, after his virtual disappearing act in the loss to Syracuse, I figured he could use another year in Bloomington, because he clearly didn't look ready for the NBA.

But that was before I saw Kevin Ware shatter his leg, and started wondering what Zeller must have thought when he saw that. And it was before I stopped to consider a fundamental truth: If you've got upside, the NBA doesn't really care whether or not you're ready for the NBA. The NBA figures it can make you ready.

The league traffics in potential, not the here and now, which is why, from what I hear out there, Zeller figures to be a lottery pick if he comes out. That he's occasionally been overmatched by bigger, more physical players inside won't much matter to whoever gets him, because whoever gets him will no doubt put him on a weight regimen to bulk him up.

And, besides, it's not like he'll be playing with his back to the basket in the League, anyway. With his ability to run the floor and drop the mid-range jumper as a 7-footer, he's a classic power forward at the next level. Developed properly, he'll be the ideal trailer on the break, and could occasionally even fill a lane on it.

For a man his size, he's got a unique skill set -- a skill set for which someone will eagerly pay extravagantly. So if the money's out there, Zeller's got to take it.

Now. Before what happened to Kevin Ware can happen to him.

Ben Smith's blog.

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