The annual NBA GM preseason survey is always a fun read. It's an interesting look at the opinions of some of the top roster decision-makers in the league on everything from their championship picks to who they think are the best defenders to their thoughts on the current class of rookies. GMs were not allowed to vote for their own players.
Though the Bobcats got a couple votes for most surprising and most underrated offseason moves in signing Al Jefferson, the part of note for me how highly the GMs think of Cody Zeller, who garnered decent shares of the votes for who they thought would win Rookie of the Year and which rookie they thought would be the best in five years.
Victor Oladipo easily won the RoY vote with 80 percent of the vote and Zeller came in a distant second with 10 percent. A few other rookies received a smattering of votes to complete the remaining 10 percent. But when posed the question "Which rookie will be the best player in five years?", they were much less confident. Oladipo again won, but the margin was closer. Zeller came in second with 13.3 percent to Oladipo's 40 percent. Anthony Bennett and Ben McLemore each got 10 percent of the votes and Kelly Olynyk received 6.7 percent. The remainder was spread between a couple handfuls of players.
I don't disagree with their early predictions for Oladipo and I do think he's a strong candidate for the award. He's very talented and will have the ball in his hands a ton, which is the main reason I'd peg him as the RoY frontrunner. He'll have immediate offensive and defensive impact and the Magic want to get the ball in his hands as much as possible, even by giving him some run at point guard. Orlando has plenty of talent that doesn't dominate the ball and can be effective off the ball as much as when it's at their disposal.
Zeller, on the flip side, will not see that kind of situation. Yes, he will definitely get his share of opportunities to take the ball in his own hands and create his offense, but with Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson running the show as the two offensive balances inside and out, Zeller should be more of an offensive Swiss Army knife for a while. Cut to the hoop there. Set a pick here. Roll there. Pindown screen here. Step out to 20 feet from the hoop for a pick and pop. As Zeller gets more comfortable in his NBA transition, he'll create his own shot more and more. As the team finds its footing, Zeller should, too. Clifford doesn't want to push anything: "you watch him, see what he is comfortable with, and let his role develop from there."
Plus, I don't think Zeller will have be a good enough rebounder or defender to earn the box score-filling stats that will raise eyebrows around the country to bring his name into the Rookie of the Year conversation for those who don't pay much attention to the entire league.
Anyway, Zeller seems to have really come along strong in recent months in the eyes of GMs around the league. Clearly he was in the consideration as a top pick even though the Bobcats selecting him surprised many that day, but the regard for Zeller has grown a ton lately.