2024 NBA Draft: Where could Zach Edey land? Breaking down the big man's fit at the pro level

Zach Edey was the most dominant player in college hoops this past season. He controlled the paint with his 7-foot-4 frame. He averaged 25.2 points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in 32 minutes. And he helped lead Purdue to the national championship game, where he scored 37 of the team's 60 points in a loss to the UConn Huskies, who won back-to-back titles. Twenty years ago, the NBA world would be talking about Edey as the runaway favorite to be the No. 1 overall draft pick. But the game has changed significantly.

Traditional back-to-the-basket centers have been replaced with floor spacers who can handle the ball and knock down shots along the perimeter. So, the biggest question many teams will be facing on draft night is: Where does Zach Edey fit in this modern-day NBA game?

"For any team to draft Edey, they would have to change the way they play," an NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. "Not necessarily to play around him, but he would become a secondary center off the bench to bring in rim protection and size. Is that worth a look in the first round? In this draft? Probably."

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - APRIL 08: (EDITORS NOTE: Image taken using a remote camera.) Zach Edey #15 of the Purdue Boilermakers dunks over Donovan Clingan #32 of the Connecticut Huskies during the first half in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament National Championship game at State Farm Stadium on April 08, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
At 7-4, Zach Edey is a presence in the paint. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Edey is confident he can break the mold and be a productive big in the NBA. He's a smart player who can anchor a team's defense with his 7-foot-11 wingspan and 9-foot-7 standing reach.

"Every team needs someone to hold down the paint,” Edey told reporters at the combine. "You need someone to grab rebounds, someone to block shots and finish lobs. Not everything has to be with me having the ball in my hands and in the post-up."

Edey made only one 3-pointer his entire college career, and that's definitely an area of development. But at the combine he actually shot at a high rate in the spot-up drills and showed NBA scouts he can extend his game.

"Obviously at Purdue there were a lot of post-ups, but if you really watch the game, there's plenty of ball screens, seals, hit the indirect and go back in, and that's what they run in the NBA and that's what I can bring to any team," Edey said.

Defensively, though, is where he'll be targeted. He won't be able to camp out in the paint and defend the rim the way he did in college with the defensive 3-second rule. Opponents will be looking to extend him in ball screens and switches all game. With his limited foot speed, this is the most glaring weakness in his game. It will take only a short amount of time to see if his game can translate defensively with the speed and movement of the NBA. There's also the concern of how a grueling 82-game schedule is going to wear on his 300-pound frame with limited recovery time.

Edey likely won't be drafted as a player for teams to build around, but rather as a player who can come off the bench and add some size in the paint for 15-20 minutes each night. He understands he's never going to be like the 7-foot playmakers who have come out of the draft in recent years, such as Chet Holmgren, Victor Wembanyama, and Alex Sarr this year.

"I’m built to be in the paint, to carve out space, to protect my area. And that’s what I’m gonna keep doing. I think there’s a lot of people in the NBA that do stuff like that. [Jonas] Valančiūnas, [Ivica] Zubac, Steven Adams; guys who had a lot of success in the NBA being those paint presences. I’m going to stick to who I am, and I kind of know who I am.”

Edey received a green room invite for the NBA Draft on June 26-27 in New York but has elected to watch with friends and family at Purdue. His realistic draft range is anywhere from 14-25 with multiple sources telling Yahoo Sports he'll likely be off the board by pick No. 20.

Edey has worked out for the Trail Blazers, Lakers, Raptors and a few other teams with a realistic landing spot being Toronto, where he grew up and has family there. He'll also be joining the Canadian men's national team this summer as it heads to the Olympics in Paris.

This is the perfect draft for Edey with all the uncertainty and no real star power projected at the top. For teams looking for a surefire thing where you know exactly what type of player you're getting, Edey is the guy. Dominant frontcourt players like Edey haven't panned out in the NBA in recent years, but he might be the outlier to break through and carve out a long NBA career.