Prior to the start of the NBA regular season every year, NBA.com surveys all 30 general managers in the league on 50 or so questions. The questions are largely about predictions for the upcoming season and give us a good idea as to how NBA front offices view the league as it stands. On Tuesday, the GM survey for the 2013-2014 NBA season was released.
There weren’t many surprises in terms of the big time predictions. The Miami Heat are the heavy favorites to win the NBA Championship this season and LeBron James is projected to take home the league’s MVP once again. Where it gets a little interesting, especially for the Charlotte Bobcats, is the part of the survey concerning rookies.
In a not-at-all-surprising turn of events, Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo is predicted to win Rookie of the Year, receiving 80 percent of the vote from NBA GMs. However, the interesting part is that Bobcats rookie Cody Zeller received the second most votes at 10 percent as to who will win the award.
Moreover, Zeller also finished second, once again following Oladipo, in the category of which rookie will be best in five years, receiving 13.3 percent of the vote (Oladipo received 40 percent of the vote).
As far as Bobcats rookies getting love in the GM survey goes, Zeller placing so high in these questions is a rare occurrence for the team. Over the past two years as the Bobcats featured rookies Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo in 2011 and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in 2012, only Walker showed up in the Rookie of the Year vote, tying for third with 7.4 percent of the vote. After that, Walker was in the “also receiving votes” category for best rookie in five years, Biyombo ranked sixth in the most athletic rookie vote in 2011, and MKG ranked second in 2012 in the most athletic rookie category.
Though Zeller may not have the potential that Walker does, one thing that is working in his favor this season in terms of his Rookie of the Year chances is opportunity. Zeller is going to see big minutes in Charlotte’s frontcourt this season playing alongside newly signed center Al Jefferson and will certainly have the chance to put up solid numbers as the team’s third or fourth option on offense.
I’ve said before that I’m not big on Zeller’s upside and I still stand by that. He certainly has areas in his game where he could stand to improve, but he’s also one of the most pro-ready prospects from this draft-class. While he still needs work defensively, his offensive game is certainly polished in terms of being able to score in a variety of ways, his activity with and without the ball, and his awareness to help set up his teammates for scores. That’s yet another reason why him placing second in the GM’s Rookie of the Year vote isn’t all that surprising.
In terms of him being the second best rookie five years down the road, that’s harder for me to understand. While I think Zeller has the chance to be successful in this league if he keeps working and improving upon his weaknesses, a possibility at his young age, his lack of upside is still present. To me, it seems like the GMs in the survey had to be talking about the player’s skill-sets as they stand now five years down the road as opposed to what they could be. If potential was fully factored in, it’s hard to imagine guys like Ben McLemore or Nerlens Noel reaching their maximum potential and being less effective than Zeller.
This survey certainly isn’t Nostradamus type stuff as GMs are humans like all of us that can swing and miss. However, it’s a positive sign for Bobcats fans and people like myself who were low on Zeller as the fourth-overall pick in the draft to see that the front offices around the league have faith in the rookie big man. Now Zeller has to go out and prove that he deserves their faith.