Zach Edey of Purdue NCAA
Photo credit: Purdue Sports

Zach Edey: 2024 NBA Draft's Most Controversial Prospect

Published March 30, 2024 at 3:49 PM

Zach Edey has dominated college basketball for the past two seasons, garnering attention in this year's NCAA Tournament for his sheer size and impressive performance. He has amassed 53 points, 35 rebounds, and six blocks in just 58 minutes of play, propelling Purdue to the Sweet 16.

Opinions on Edey's NBA potential vary greatly. Some view him as a top lottery pick, while others see him as a probable disappointment in the professional league. This stark contrast in assessments has led to Edey being the most contentious player in the 2024 draft class.

The wide discrepancy in evaluations of Edey stems from various factors.

With his towering stature standing at 7 feet 4 inches and weighing 300 pounds, accompanied by an impressive 7 feet 10 inches wingspan, Edey presents an imposing figure on the court. His immense physical presence renders him virtually unstoppable near the basket.

This physical advantage has translated into remarkable productivity during his college career. Edey boasts averages of 24.5 points and 12.1 rebounds per game for Purdue this season, shooting an impressive 62.3 percent from the field.

Opposing teams face a daunting challenge when guarding Edey in the post. Without substantial defensive assistance, he effortlessly powers his way to the rim, frequently resulting in scoring opportunities. Edey's exceptional ability as a screen-setter further enhances his offensive effectiveness, as he adeptly rolls to the basket and utilizes his strength to outmuscle defenders. Additionally, he demonstrates excellent touch, particularly evident in his right-handed hook shots.

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Edey's offensive strategy heavily revolves around post-ups, a style that many doubt will translate well to the NBA. While still effective as a change of pace, post-up plays are not as prevalent in the NBA due to the league's emphasis on pick-and-roll plays.

Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid stand out in the league for their frequent post-up opportunities, averaging around six such looks per game. However, most other players either rarely utilize post-ups or limit themselves to one or two per game.

Several college players with a similar playing style to Edey, such as Luka Garza and Drew Timme, struggled to make an impact in the NBA. Garza was selected 52nd in the 2021 NBA Draft but has played only 78 career games, while Timme went undrafted and has yet to play an NBA game, opting to sign with the Bucks' G League team.

Edey possesses offensive weaknesses that NBA teams will exploit. He lacks shooting threat, allowing defenders to clog the paint and restrict driving lanes for his teammates. Despite improvements in his left hand and passing skills, he needs to react quicker to double teams due to his slower processing speed.

The major concern with Edey lies on the defensive end. Similar to Garza and Timme, Edey struggles with footspeed, which hinders his ability to defend pick-and-rolls effectively.

In college, Edey benefits from the lack of defensive three seconds, allowing him to linger near the basket for extended periods. However, NBA rules require big men to vacate the lane every three seconds and defend beyond the 3-point line frequently, posing challenges for slower centers.

Additionally, slow centers like Edey face difficulties in transition defense in the fast-paced NBA environment, where agile athletes constantly pressure the defense and seek early scoring opportunities. Edey's struggles with defending rim-running big men in college raise concerns about his ability to handle similar challenges consistently in the NBA.

Enormous players like Boban Marjanovic have demonstrated exceptional scoring and rebounding abilities, averaging 22.8 points and 14.8 rebounds per 36 minutes throughout his nine-year career. However, due to his defensive limitations, particularly his stiff hips and slow foot speed, he has only seen limited playing time, averaging 8.7 minutes per game. Edey encounters similar challenges, as changing directions on defense proves to be a cumbersome task for him, akin to maneuvering a large vessel.

Despite these shortcomings, NBA teams appear willing to take a chance on Edey in a relatively weak draft class. Respected draft analyst Sam Vecenie of The Athletic consistently hears that Edey is likely to be selected in the first round, albeit outside of the lottery.

The question remains: Is Edey destined for the lottery, or is he more suited for a second-round selection? Ultimately, his success in the NBA will hinge on his fit with the team that drafts him.

Edey is not a one-size-fits-all prospect; his effectiveness will heavily depend on his surroundings. With the right coach and supporting cast, one that includes shooters and versatile defenders capable of switching assignments, Edey could thrive as an NBA player. However, if such conditions are not met, he may struggle defensively and find it challenging to remain on the court despite his scoring prowess.

Source Sporting News : Zach Edey is the most polarizing player in 2024 NBA Draft: Why Purdue star ranges from lottery to second round pick
March 30   |   2 answers
Zach Edey: 2024 NBA Draft's Most Controversial Prospect

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