“I had a GM ask me, put your general manager hat on and who would you take,” Crean said. “I told him, I can't answer that. They're both so highly competitive. They both bring so many skills to the table.
“One (Oladipo) just turned 21. The other (Zeller) won't turn 21 until October. They'll just keep getting better and better.”
Both are projected as lottery picks. Some mock drafts have Oladipo going as high as No. 2 to the Orlando Magic, with an outside chance of going No. 1 with Cleveland.
Why No. 1? Because, according to ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford, “There isn't a clear No. 1. There isn't a franchise player.”
And then here's another reason: “Length and wingspan matter so much in the NBA,” Ford said.
The 6-4 Oladipo has a 6-9 wingspan combined with extreme athleticism, leaping ability and work ethic.
NBA coaches love work ethic.
Zeller could go anywhere from Phoenix at No. 5 to Oklahoma City at No. 12. Philadelphia, with the No. 11 pick, is reportedly very interested in him.
Ford called Zeller a “dark horse” to go No. 2 with Orlando.
There was even speculation that the Brooklyn Nets would work out a trade with Dallas, which has the No. 13 pick, to get Zeller if he was still available.
Both players boosted their stock at the NBA Combine in Chicago. Zeller was especially impressive with his standing jump of 35.1 inches, which was better than the high-leaping Oladipo (33.0). Zeller also posted a faster time than Oladipo in one agility drill.
Both were hoping to match their Indiana numbers by bench pressing 185 pounds 22 times. Zeller did it 17 times. Oladipo was at 15.
“They're still mad because they had a couple of their bench presses taken away because they were alleged to have come off the bench a little bit,” Crean said. “They're still dwelling on that. They wanted to have that (22 rep) mark.
“That's what I love about them. They want to compete in everything.”
Oladipo and Zeller made the invitation-only “green room” for Thursday's draft in Brooklyn, N.Y. That honor goes to only those players almost certain to be lottery picks. The others are Maryland's Alex Len, Kentucky's Nerlens Noel, Georgetown's Otto Poter, Kansas' Ben McLemore, Michigan's Trey Burke, Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams, Lehigh's C.J. McCollum and UNLV's Anthony Bennett.
Although Zeller led IU in scoring and rebounding for the second straight season and earned All-America honors, he was criticized for a lack of explosiveness and an apparent unwillingness — or an inability — to take over games. Not true, associate head coach Tim Buckley said.
“Some of that stuff, in my opinion, was overstated. I thought Cody had a great season. If you weren't sure about how well Cody played, go back to the last four minutes of the Michigan game to win the Big Ten title. That will show you everything you need to know about Cody Zeller.”
For the record, Zeller scored the game's final six points, finishing with 25 points and 10 rebounds, as the Hoosiers rallied for a 72-71 victory at Michigan.
“We had 12 wins the year before Cody got here,” Buckley said. “We had 27 and 29 wins with him.”
Zeller worked out for 10 teams: Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Detroit, Minnesota, Oklahoma City, Utah, Sacramento and Charlotte.
One NBA draft web site, nbadraft.net, described Zeller as “A big man with an excellent basketball IQ and all around athlete ... A gazelle. Runs the floor extremely well for a 7 footer. He also has great body control for a center, showing unusual ability to convert plays on the break ... Plays with great energy … a focused and intense competitor ... Highly unselfish, team guy and a willing passer with good vision for a big ... Puts winning and his team over individual accolades.”
Oladipo, meanwhile, is almost certain to be a top-5 pick. He has been compared to Boston Celtics swingman Tony Allen, one of the NBA's top defenders.
Bleacherreport.com, another NBA draft site, called Oladipo “the top perimeter defender in this class” and said he also has “the highest motor and the most explosive athleticism.”
“Put that all together and you have the type of player that will be in the running for perennial All-Defensive team selections. Oladipo has the upside to be the best player in this draft class.”
Nbadraft.net described Oladipo as “more of a pure athlete than an offensive player, but he has time to grow there. Defensively he should be able to translate to the NBA quite easily.”
The Sporting News' Sean Deveney said Oladipo, “might be the most NBA ready prospect in the draft.”
Former IU standout Christian Watford also hopes to go in one of the NBA draft's two rounds. But NBA teams select just 60 players and Watford is generally rated between No. 80 and No. 100. He's more likely to sign as a free agent and hope to make a team, play overseas or try the NBA's D-League.
Another former Hoosier, Jordan Hulls, also hopes to play professionally. His best bets are overseas or the D-League, although reports indicate Detroit would like him to play on its summer team.