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Sixers draft profile: Nick Nurse knows all about Zach Edey’s unique game

Written by on May 28, 2024

Sixers draft profile: Nick Nurse knows all about Zach Edey’s unique game originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

A scouting report on NBA draft prospect Zach Edey:

Strengths

Edey is extremely tall and extremely accomplished. Edey, Ralph Sampson and the late Bill Walton are the only players to win the Naismith Men’s College Player of the Year award multiple times.

The final game of Edey’s college career was a 37-point, 10-rebound performance in Purdue’s national championship game loss to UConn. He was incredibly dominant throughout the Boilermakers’ tournament run, posting humongous stats while dealing with immense attention, avoiding foul trouble, and being highly efficient. Over the six-game tournament, Edey averaged 29.5 points, 14.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.8 blocks.

While he’s quite comfortable with the basics, Edey doesn’t score solely because he’s very big. He has strong legs and plays with balance and power in the post. The 22-year-old has good touch and range on his hook shot, can shoot it with both hands, and has reliable counter moves. He fights to earn deep position, but Edey is still a serious scoring threat when he catches the ball a few feet from the paint.

Blocked shots don’t capture all of Edey’s impact as a rim protector. At Purdue, he regularly deterred drivers and generally appeared to pick the right spots to be aggressive. He doesn’t seem like a young center who will bite on pump fakes and pile up fouls because he’s bewildered by NBA-level craftiness.

Edey took up basketball late, focusing on baseball and hockey until he was a sophomore in high school. He improved continually over his four years at Purdue and further development wouldn’t be surprising at all.

Sixers head coach Nick Nurse was impressed when he worked with Edey on the Canadian national team.

“I think he’s got a good IQ,” Nurse told reporters in 2022. “And to complement that … he’s got a great work ethic. He is a hard worker. He has some rigid things he believes in that he does — like he’s not leaving the gym until he does his X amount of jump hooks with both hands. Literally, nothing’s taking him out of the gym until he does some things. He starts and ends each practice and each workout in a certain way and he’s just kind of religious to that.”

Weaknesses

No one would call Edey a “modern” NBA center.

Perhaps he’ll be able to hit open long-range jumpers, but that wasn’t part of Edey’s game in college (besides a single banked-in three). He shot 71.1 percent from the foul line last season, which is fine but doesn’t suggest he’s likely to break out soon as a three-point shooter.

Edey is far more adept as a scorer than as a passer. If he ultimately draws help defenders in the NBA, Edey will need to anticipate doubles and be less deliberate in his decision-making.

The concerns for Edey defensively boil down to the question of whether he can hold up outside of the paint. Will his size and instincts be enough to play solid drop pick-and-roll coverage, even against quality pull-up shooters and speedy drivers? Will shooting big men pull him out to the perimeter, do long-distance damage, and negate his abilities as a rim protector?

At the moment, Edey doesn’t look like a player NBA coaches will trust in all defensive situations. His team may very well need to be especially cognizant of matchups and schemes, leaning on drop coverage — and perhaps some zone — to play to his strengths and mitigate his lack of nimbleness.

Fit

The extensive list of centers to play behind Joel Embiid does already include a 7-foot-4 player in Boban Marjanovic. Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey served as Rockets general manager for the final few seasons of 7-foot-6 Yao Ming’s Hall of Fame career. Those experiences don’t hurt in considering whether Edey would be worth selecting for the Sixers at No. 16.

However, Nurse’s history with Edey himself is obviously most relevant.

“I love him, first of all,” Nurse told Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd in April. “He was 18 years old, we were in our first training camp, and we needed some of our young kids there. We had about four or five of them. And our guys didn’t know what to do with him. We couldn’t stop him. … I said, ‘Listen, this guy’s got to be part of our program.’

“He’s certainly a problem. And you know what else? He’s super competitive. He’s really a super hard worker. He’s out there every day working, he’s out there every day playing. There’s a lot to like about this guy for sure.”

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