The Runnin' Rebel basketball program was proud that a native son to Las Vegas decided to stay in the city of lights and play his freshmen year for UNLV. However, most fans understood, even from the start, that Stephen Zimmerman may be a "one and done" player. They were right.
It didn't take Zimmerman long to declare for the 2016 NBA Draft. Several mock draft boards as early as late last year placed him in the mid to low first round. In a couple weeks, Zimmerman will find out his professional fate in the coming year.
Here, Mountain West Connection looks at his strengths and weaknesses.
Highly Skilled Big Man: This phrase may sound like a cliche, but in today's NBA, big men must be agile and accurate as much as guards. Zimmerman brings both accurate outside shooting as well agility to the court. He moves smoothly for a 7-footer on offense and is a skilled shot blocker. He can play well at the power forward or play true center.
Good Mid-range Shooter: All men on the court in the NBA can shoot the ball anymore. Therefore, NBA scouts have to be excited about Zimmerman's mid-range shot. He has the ability, as a big man, to give a jab step from 15 feet and step back for a jumper. This mid-range jumper will set him apart from other centers in the draft.
Nice Court Visibility: College basketball fans sometimes had the opportunity to witness the brief moments when Zimmerman took it upon himself to push the ball up the court acting more like a point guard than stagnant center. As more NBA offenses begin to focus on the "kick out" from center, Zimmerman's court IQ will allow him to see his teammates and spread the floor (and the options) in the half court offense.
Upper Body Strength: UNLV has become better known in the last few years for their talented big men such as Christian Wood, Anthony Bennett, and now Stephen Zimmerman. However, a NBA critique of the two former players was their overall strength and conditioning. Zimmerman will have a major learning curve to post up against the best in the business. His ability to bulk his upper body and play with more aggression will guarantee his contributions to his potential team.
Durability: Injuries are always an issue that any NBA player has to deal with, but new players like Zimmerman must come into the NBA strong and healthy. After recovering from a left knee sprain endured earlier in the season, Zimmerman looks healthy and poised to take on the grind of the NBA schedule. Zimmerman's ability to stay healthy as he continues to build his overall strength will be paramount to his success.
Long-range Shooting: At one point, it was crazy to think that NBA centers needed to know how to shoot 3 pointers. Now, its not so insane. Instead, Zimmerman, with a solid outside shot, will need to continue to improve his long-range shooting; this will give his potential team the opportunity to allow him to jump out for an occasional 3. His goal should be to end up in the category of the "Anthony Davis" type of center (emblematic of the new NBA style).