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Eyeing IU

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Hoosiers NBA draft prospects

The NBA Draft will begin at 7 p.m. today at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. A pair of former Indiana players expect to hear their names called early.

Former Hoosiers Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller are among the projected lottery picks in today’s draft. Oladipo has been put as high as No. 1 in some mock drafts, while Zeller has gotten attention as a darkhorse No. 2 pick by Chad Ford of ESPN. The 7-foot center is likely to be taken somewhere in the top-15 if that doesn’t come to fruition.

The 2013 draft class is widely considered weak at the top, but there are plenty of players who can contribute to teams and lots of depth to the group, DraftExpress.com analyst Jonathan Givony told The Journal Gazette in April.

“I think it’s a fairly normal draft in terms of depth,” said Givony, who has covered the draft for more than a decade. “It’s relatively standard compared to what I’ve seen in years past.

“At the top, you’re just not seeing that franchise-changing prospect. There’s no Lebron James, there’s no Derrick Rose.”

But there are players like Oladipo, Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel and Michigan’s Trey Burke, among many others. There are plenty of players that seem small-time now, but like some in the 2012 draft could translate well to the NBA.

“One year ago today, everybody was saying the same thing about last year’s draft,” Givony said. “(Portland Trail Blazers guard) Damian Lillard comes in, and guess what? He’s one of the 15 best point guards in the NBA. This thing has a funny way of working itself out.”

And so these players, and the IU draftees, hope it will.

Here’s a look at the Hoosiers on draft day, including former forward Christian Watford, who could be chosen in the late second round.

Victor Oladipo

Postion: Guard

Height/weight: 6-foot-4, 213 pounds

Hometown: Upper Marlboro, Md.

Projection: Top 5

Outlook: Oladipo has a skill set, work ethic and personality that have made him the most talked-about player from the top of the draft to the bottom picks. Reports have surfaced about teams like the Chicago Bulls trying to move up into the lottery to pick up Oladipo, who has a reputation as a tenacious defender and became one of the most dangerous offensive players in the nation during his final season in Bloomington.

He was a first-team All-Big Ten selection, the Sporting News Player of the Year, an Associated Press first-team All-American and the National Association of Basketball Coaches Co-Defensive Player of the Year.

Pretty good for a player that barely cracked the top-150 prospects when he signed with the Hoosiers in 2010.

Givony’s take: “He’s probably one of the most athletic wing players in this draft. That’s attractive right off the bat. … He’s probably one of the best defenders in this draft. The fact that he’s improved as much as he has as a 3-point shooter definitely helps.”

Cody Zeller

Position: Forward

Height/weight: 7-foot, 230 pounds

Hometown: Washington

Projection: Top 15

Outllook: Zeller has a huge variance from one mock draft to the next.

Much of that has to do with the players at his position, as well as team needs.

There is no doubt Zeller, despite some varying opinions on his college season, is one of the best offensive forwards in this draft class. He is polished both on the block and away from it, and while he didn’t show much of it during his final season at IU, he can play away from the rim and hit jump shots.

Zeller also shocked some with his athleticism during pre-draft workouts. He had a standing vertical leap of 35.5 inches, as well as a 3.15-second finish in the three-quarter court sprint.

Questions about Zeller’s strength, and if he is ready for the NBA game, are misguided. Players can grow at the next level, and if he isn’t strong enough now, professional personnel can get him there. Givony referenced Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah and San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan as examples of that.

While Zeller struggled against bigger competition this season and didn’t reach the sky-high expectations set for him by national analysts, he is no less a NBA prospect because of it. While he might not be the No. 1 guy he was taken for at the start of the 2012-13 season, he has the tools to contribute for a team in need of an offensively gifted forward.

Givony’s take: “It was very obvious that people were expecting things that just are not realistic. I think that hurts him more in the eyes of the fans than the guys in the NBA. …He’s an offensive juggernaut. He’s a guy that, at 7 feet tall, can create his shot from anywhere on the court.”

Christian Watford

Postion: Forward

Height/weight: 6-foot-9, 224 pound

Hometown: Birmingham, Ala.

Projection: Late second round/undrafted free agent

Outlook: Watford has torn through workouts in the two weeks leading up to the draft, and positive reviews have put him in the top-100 prospects for both ESPN and DraftExpress.com before draft day.

Whether that’s good enough to put him on the board today is another story.

Watford has a skillset that is hard to come by in this draft. He’s a stretch forward with a knack for hitting threes, as evidenced by the past two seasons, and he has length that makes him an attractive option late in the second round.

His athleticism has been called into question. But improvements in his ability to rebound the ball, and a wingspan of more than seven feet, could help push him into the late picks.

Givony’s take: “If you start counting down the number of power forwards in this draft that can shoot the ball, you’re not going to make it past 10. He’s got a skill that he can maybe hang his hat on. Everybody needs a floor spacer.”

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