My first observation of Stephen Zimmerman took place at the 2011 Adidas Invitational in Indianapolis. As a rising ninth grader, I didn't want to spend much time watching a prospect that young. But in his case, given his 6-9 frame and obvious blossoming skill, due diligence mandated a time investment.
For perspective, consider that Andre Drummond and Shabazz Muhammad were among the other players to attend camp that week. That's how long Zimmerman has been competing among the national elite.
He landed at Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman for high school and has been a rankings and recruiting fixture for the past three and a half years, and yet his game hasn't remained static.
By the time he arrived at the 2013 Pangos All-American Camp and NBPA Top 100 Camp, Zimmerman had begun to make a case for the No. 1 position in his class. He was among the fleetest big man in the country and also boasted legitimate face-up ability at his current height of 6-11.
His junior season became somewhat uneven, however, as his body grew and changed and so did his style. After some struggles in spring 2014, however, Zimmerman appeared to adjust to the changes and enjoyed some fine moments later during the summer.
While no longer appearing to be a strong contender for No. 1, he remains a blue-chip prospect and almost definitely will be a McDonald's All-American next spring, with a long and bright future ahead of him.
Zimmerman boasts long arms even for someone who stands 6-11. He uses that length most effectively scoring over opposing big men. He loves to utilize a half hook and benefits from being a southpaw, so the angles he wields are less conventional and more difficult to block.
That hook shot could prove money both for his future teams and literally, in terms of his individual prosperity. He has range with it to 10 feet, backs down defenders well and turns quickly over his shoulder to get a clean release.
|Zimmerman has worked hard to maximize his talent|
Meanwhile, though his body changes have brought some drawbacks (see below), Zimmerman has become stronger and more substantial physically. He holds interior position better than in the past and also has improved as a post defender. He also remains athletic enough to throw down lobs and tip-dunks, and he still runs the floor fine for a big man.
Not surprisingly, he contributes as a shotblocker as well and also possesses very good hands to rebound the ball high in traffic.
From a skills standpoint, and in addition to his post scoring, Zimmerman is a pretty good face-up shooter. He knocks in shots from 8-15 feet and has the form to expand his range down the road.
And his passing is outstanding and arguably what he does best of all. He's excellent delivering entry lobs from the high post and also fakes and dips well inside to find a fellow big man for a slam.
Because he's filling out and getting a little wider, Zimmerman doesn't run with the same speed as he did previously. He also doesn't jump quite as well from a standing position and thus can be bothered somewhat by foes who may not have been able to challenge him in the past.
Along with that, his numbers languished somewhat on the travel circuit with the Oakland Soldiers. He averaged just nine points per game in 22 games this past spring and summer, shooting 44 percent from the floor and 60 percent from the foul line.
In fairness, none of the Soldiers' touted big men — also including Ivan Rabb and Chimezie Metu — really played to potential as the cohesiveness for that squad didn't appear to be great. Still, Zimmerman is capable of much better production, though his eight rebounds and two blocks per contest at least were solid from a defensive standpoint.
Adding up the pluses and minuses, Zimmerman remains an outstanding prospect. He doesn't quite do the highlight reel things he used to do, but functionally that stuff never was going to comprise his career foundation, anyway.
He also has a go-to offensive move and should be a capable defender and rebounder. He deserves credit for adjusting his style to his physique, and he obviously has lots of time to complete that process.
Zimmerman should become an immediate contribute and possible starter for the college program of his choice. If he were to return for a sophomore season, he could explode with a year to continue his maturation. Beyond that, he appears to have an excellent shot to advance to the NBA as well.