Indiana forward Cody Zeller and guard Victor Oladipo plan to decide on whether to enter the 2013 NBA Draft this week. Ahead of that decision, we spoke with draft guru Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com.
Givony, who has more than a decade of experience evaluating NBA prospects, offered insights into Oladipo and Zeller's upside, as well as some thoughts on senior Christian Watford and the 2012-13 draft class as a whole.
Read part of that conversation in our Q&A below, and see more analysis from Givony and his team on Twitter (@DraftExpress) and on the Web at www.draftexpress.com.
JG: What does Victor Oladipo do well now that will help him at the next level?
Givony: "He's probably one of the most athletic wing players in this draft. That's attractive right off the bat. He doesn't have great size, but he has a good wingspan and a good frame."
"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. … He's improved from kind of a non-shooter when he came in – even last year."
"He's a team player, too. I think that's attractive. He knows his role. … He rebounds. He hustles. He does a lot of the little things."
Oladipo is projected as the No. 5 pick in the draft by Draft Express.
JG: Cody Zeller came into the season as a projected No. 1 draft pick and Player of the Year favorite. He is a very skilled player offensively, but many have raised questions about his physicality. What's your take on him?
Givony: "It was very obvious that people were expecting things that just are not realistic (this season). 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. … He's everything you can hope for offensively. He's 20 years old. A lot of big guys at 20 years old are still growing into their bodies. It's kind of expected."
Givony made reference Chicago Bulls forward Joakim Noah and the San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan as examples of two post players who started their NBA careers with lighter frames, but developed those physical tools within a couple of years.
"There's not a lot of foresight when a guy struggles," Givony said. "They don't realize that three years from now he's going to look a lot different from a physical standpoint."
Zeller is projected as the No. 6 pick in the draft by Draft Express.
JG: Christian Watford has fallen out of the NBA Draft conversation over the past two years. Where do you see him fitting in on the professional basketball landscape?
Givony: "I wouldn't rule out him being on an NBA roster next year. 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. Everybody needs a floor spacer. … He's got a skill that he can maybe hang his hat on."
Watford's ability to hit the three could help him land a training camp invite, Givony said. It's a skill very few power forwards in this draft have – "There's (Florida's) Erik Murphy, (Creighton's) Doug McDermott and then him." Murphy and McDermott are projected at No. 22 and No. 9 in the second round, respectively.
"He did kind of quietly improve," Givony said. "He's a better rebounder than a year ago."
However, Watford's decision to not participate in pre-draft camps could hurt him significantly, Givony said, and the forward has "done a disservice to himself" by shirking that chance at further exposure.
JG: Many are of the opinion that this is a weak draft class. How do you look at this class as a whole? Where do the players in this draft fit in to NBA rosters?
Givony: "I think it's a fairly normal draft in terms of depth. 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 Givony hasn't seen a "strong" draft yet, by NBA scout's estimations. There always seems to be some disappointment, he said, about the level of talent in any given draft.
"One year ago today, everybody was saying the same thing about last year's draft," Givony said. "(Portland Trail Blazers rookie) 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."