Now that the NBA regular season is over and the playoffs are starting it feels like now is an appropriate time to check back on some former Indiana players and how they did this year in the NBA compared to expectations. Probably more than anybody, Indiana fans want to keep a pulse on Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo since they're our only NBA players from the last 5 years. Of course you still have Indy native Eric Gordon kicking around and DJ White was back and forth with ten day contracts here and there. Outside of those four, Indiana doesn't have any former roster guys playing in American pro ball.
Let's address these guys from oldest to youngest.
With the retirement of Jared Jeffries from his playing career (he's now a scout for the Nuggets and hosting a fishing show on the Outdoor Channel), DJ White becomes the oldest Hoosier in the league. The 2008 draft pick has been bouncing back and forth between the NBA and foreign leagues for the majority of his last two years. Last year after being released by Boston he went over to play in China. This season he was brought back shortly for a 10 day contract with the Charlotte Bobcats. He logged 2 games for a combined 20 minutes and attempted 1 shot. The fact that he was in the league for any time from where he started would be considered a successful year for the Hoosier big man.
Eric Gordon continued his oft injured playing career as well. This season with a renewed contract from the ever terrifying New Orleans Pelicans. He did play in the second highest games of his career this season at 64, which is nearly 80%. That hasn't happened much for Gordon since jumping to the pros. Injuries have always bogged him down and the fact that New Orleans has about 12 guys they would like to start at the guard positions, all of which are seemingly volume scorers, it was tough going for Gordon. Still he played well enough. Shooting 43.6% from the floor and 39% from 3 his season wasn't too bad. New Orleans missed the playoffs with a sub .500 record, but I don't think that roster every stood much of a chance. It will be interesting to see where his career goes from here. He's a $14 million cap hit next year, but is a strong offensive weapon. I could see New Orleans trying to flip the 25 year old to alleviate some of that logjam at the PG/SG spot.
Oladipo is the Hoosier this season that came up smelling the most like roses. He played in 80 games. Started 44 and averaged 14 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 turnovers and nearly 2 steals a game. In a very weak draft class (the weakest in WAR since 2000) Oladipo stood out as one of the few positives from the class. Unlikely to walk away with the actual hardware for Rookie of the Year (probably going to the guy who ended Zeller and Oladipo's college careers Michael Carter-Williams), Oladipo still had a great season for building on. He's made a pretty solid transition to point guard despite his handles being sub par for the league's toughest position. Unfortunately it wasn't nearly enough to get Orlando into the playoffs. Oladipo and friends will be sitting at home thinking about the necessary off season to get themselves into the hunt for next year.
Finally we have the youngest Zeller. Cody had a year that I think most were expecting from him. For the #4 overall pick it wasn't through the roof compared to previous #4s but if you were expecting anything more than Zeller needing time this year, you were kidding yourself. He spent most of his season coming off the bench behind another Indiana native in Josh McRoberts (who saw his only little career resurgence this season). Zeller only played a little more than 17 minutes per game this year, but those minutes slowly increased all year long. His season, culminated in an outstanding game against his brother's Cavaliers in the first week of April. Zeller logged 37 minutes of playing time and put together 12 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists game. In the span from the end of March to the end of the regular season Zeller averaged 9 points and 5 rebounds in 22 minutes a game. Numbers that if he can build on for next year should put him in the conversation for starting all year. For what it's worth he finished 10th on NBA.com's Rookie Ladder which is probably higher than where I would have expected. Overall a very successful regular season for the youngest Zeller. You can still watch Zeller play as his Bobcats are currently down 1 game to none versus the Heat. They play again tonight at 8 pm on TNT.