Apr 10, 2013; Bloomington, IN, USA; Indiana Hoosiers player Cody Zeller at a press conference for the NBA draft. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowksi-USA TODAY Sports

Paul Allen Attends Zeller Solo Workout

Last Friday the Trail Blazers held a solo workout for Cody Zeller. Not only did he have the gym all to himself, the workout was attended by Blazer owner Paul Allen. Allen typically does not attend workouts unless the prospect is being heavily considered for the Blazers’ first round pick. Zeller is projected to be drafted between 8 and 12, but this year’s non-existent talent gaps make for an unpredictable draft. However, if Zeller is available when the Blazers pick (#10), it is looking more and more likely that he will be their selection.

Zeller is 7’0”, 230 lbs, and can play both the power forward and center position. Last season at Indiana he averaged 16.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. He is a very smart player and a good finisher on offense, but his relatively short wingspan and small hands could prevent him from being a true NBA force. His biggest upside, like Meyers Leonard’s in the 2012 draft, is his ability to run the floor. For a big man, he is strong and agile.

The notion of drafting Zeller raises the question, “What does Portland do with Meyers Leonard?” Would the two share center duties after Hickson’s departure? Who would start? Will Zeller back up LaMarcus at PF instead? Is Leonard available for trade? Some have said that drafting Zeller could mean giving up on Leonard (myself included), but that may not be the case.

I have been of the camp that wants Leonard to start next season, with a veteran backup. However; as Kevin stated in his most recent piece, there are benefits to building a team that will reach its prime as a unit. My main qualm with this sentiment is that it can lead to difficult financial decisions down the line. It’s not like OKC wanted to give up James Harden last year, but if emulating a top tier team is our biggest problem, I suppose there are worse things.

So if the Blazers keep Leonard and draft Zeller, they will have an incredibly young core of solid players. It feels a bit like putting all their eggs in one basket to me, as neither center is guaranteed to become the rim protector the Blazers could have in a proven veteran, but you don’t get anywhere without taking the occasional risk. If Portland is going to take one in the draft, Zeller is a good bet for high reward.

[1] The Blazers passed up on Cody’s older brother, Tyler Zeller, in order to draft Meyers Leonard last year. Tyler now plays center for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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