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Stephen Zimmerman is an Intriguing Prospect

Stephen Zimmerman was hyped up out of high school, but he’s flying under the radar in the 2016 draft class.

Cody Taylor

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As a five-star recruit following his impressive high school campaign, Stephen Zimmerman received offers from several powerhouse schools including Kentucky, Arizona, Kansas and UCLA.

Although he had his pick among the best schools in the nation, he decided to stay home and would eventually sign with UNLV. It was a bit surprising to see the 11th-ranked player in the country pass on playing for those top schools, considering most prospects view those programs as a great opportunity to gain exposure for the next level. But Zimmerman viewed playing at home in front of his friends and family as the best move for his career.

While his signing at UNLV came with much hype, this past season for the Runnin’ Rebels didn’t quite pan out as expected. The school parted ways with its head coach midseason and the team finished with a 18-15 record. Expectations were high entering the season after signing the seven-foot Zimmerman. In addition to Zimmerman, the team also had projected draft picks in Patrick McCaw and Derrick Jones.

“It’s not the ideal situation for any player,” Zimmerman said at last week’s NBA Draft Combine. “It’s what we had to deal with in the middle of the season; we didn’t really have time to react to it much. [The coaches] all had the same plan and they were all together from the beginning so it’s not like our game plan changed much so that was the good part.”

To add to the inconsistent season for the Rebels, Zimmerman was sidelined with a knee injury for five games late in the year. Despite the up and down season, Zimmerman still managed to put together a solid freshman year. In 26 games, he averaged 10.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and two blocks.

While he was one of the most notable names coming out of high school, it remains to be seen where he will ultimately end up in next month’s draft. He may even be flying under the radar a bit leading up to the draft. He’s currently projected to be drafted late in the first round or early in the second round. In Basketball Insiders’ latest consensus mock draft, he’s currently projected to be taken with the 30th pick in the first round.

For now, Zimmerman seems to be enjoying the pre-draft process.

“It’s a blessing to be able to be here with any of the teams,” Zimmerman said. “The main message is they say they’re just trying to get to know me. They ask little stories and stuff and what I think of myself. The main thing is getting to know me, the side that they don’t get to see and the side they don’t get to know off of the court.”

Zimmerman measured in at just a touch under seven-feet tall with a 7’3.25 wingspan last week at the Combine. He brings great size and length to the frontcourt and could develop into a solid post player if given the opportunity. He still may need to add some weight to his frame since he weighed in at 234 pounds. After a summer of eating right under the guidance of an NBA team, he should be able to begin bulking up.

“[Teams] ask what I think my strengths and weaknesses are,” Zimmerman said of his pre-draft interviews. “What I feel I need to work on, what I feel I can bring to a program and what I can bring to the NBA.

“The main thing [I need to work on] is my body – getting bigger and being able to bump around with the big men in the league; the grown men of the league. I say [my strengths are my] versatility and being able to shoot at my size and energy and maturity as a young guy.”

Zimmerman proved in his lone season at UNLV that he has promise offensively. He has some solid post moves and looks like he’ll be a great pick-and-roll option for teams. He also showed that he is very mobile and does a good job cleaning up the glass on putbacks.

Growing up, Zimmerman modeled his game after Dirk Nowitzki. He has similar size to Nowitzki, and also has a soft touch on the offensive end and the ability to hit the fadeaway shot. Perhaps the biggest similarity is Zimmerman’s ability to put the ball on the floor and drive to the rim.

“I had an older sister that played basketball and she was a huge fan of Dirk,” Zimmerman said. “I think early on that was probably what I watched, especially because I knew I was going to be a humongous player. I think that watching him, I definitely learned from him a lot.”

Now, Zimmerman will continue preparing for the draft. He said last week at the Combine that he didn’t have any workouts scheduled with teams, but that will surely change as the draft approaches. Most players will continue working out at training facilities and some will even participate in Pro Days with NBA executives and scouts on hand.

His shooting remains one of the biggest areas in which he’d like to improve. He shot just 25 percent from three-point range at UNLV, but remains confident he can increase that percentage. There were some concerns with his shooting motion, but that can be fixed given the right coaching.

Zimmerman’s days are filled with workouts and other exercises. He says he has some on-court workouts early in the morning, then hits the weight room and does some conditioning work. He takes about a three-hour break following that and then comes back and does more shooting drills.

“[The workouts have] been killing me, but there is no place I’d rather be,” he said. “I love the work process of it.”

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.

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Legacy

Looking For A Few Great Voices!

From time to time we have open chairs at Basketball Insiders for writers looking to gain experience, grow their brand and to be part of an aggressive up-tempo content team.

Basketball Insiders

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From time to time we have open chairs at Basketball Insiders for writers looking to gain experience, grow their brand and to be part of an aggressive up-tempo content team.

We are considering adding new voices for the 2020-21 NBA Season, and what we are looking for is very specific.

Here are the criteria:
– A body of professional work that reflects an understanding of the NBA and basketball.
– Must live within 30 minutes of an NBA team.
– Must be willing to write two to three times per week on various topics as assigned.
– Must write in AP style and meet assigned deadlines.
– Be willing to appear in Podcasts and Video projects as needed and scheduled.
– Have a strong understanding of social media and its role in audience development.
– Be willing to work in a demanding virtual team environment.

Some things to know and consider:
– We are not hiring full-time people. If you are seeking a full-time gig, this is not that.
– This will be a low or non-compensation role initially. We need to understand your value and fit.
– We have a long track record of creating opportunities for those that excel in our program.
– This will be a lengthy interview and evaluation process. We take this very seriously, so should you.
– If you are not committed to being great, this is not the right situation for you.

If you are interested, please follow these specific instructions, Drop us an e-mail with:

Your Name:

The NBA Market You Live Near:

And Why We Should Consider You:

We do not need your resume, but a few links to work you have done under the above information would be helpful.

Please send all of this to: openings2021@basketballinsiders.com

 

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#17 – Aleksej Pokusevski – Oklahoma City Thunder

David Yapkowitz

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With the 17th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder select Aleksej Pokusevski from Serbia. The Thunder completed a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves to acquire the pick.

Pokusevski is a long term project, but one that has has an intriguing skillset. A 7-footer with good speed and quickness, Pokusevski plays like a wing and can pass like a guard. But, to truly thrive at the next level, Pokusevski will need to put on some serious weight.

Again, he’s a project. But Pokusevski’s ceiling is sky-high. And, with a rebuild ahead of them, the Thunder have more than enough time to work with him and ensure he reaches it.

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Mock Drafts

2020 NBA Mock Draft – The Final 60-Pick Mock

What a long and winding road the 20201 NBA Draft has been. While this draft cycle has seen its ups and down, the moment of truth if finally upon us.

Steve Kyler

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What a long and winding road the 20201 NBA Draft has been. While this draft cycle has seen its ups and down, the moment of truth if finally upon us.

Here is a final look at the 2020 Draft, and how it may play out in this final 60-pick Mock Draft of the 20202 NBA Draft process:

 

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