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Sixers draft profile: Nick Nurse knows all about Zach Edey’s unique game

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Sixers draft profile: Nick Nurse knows all about Zach Edey's unique game

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Sixers draft profile: Nick Nurse knows all about Zach Edey’s unique game originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

A scouting report on NBA draft prospect Zach Edey:


Edey is extremely tall and very accomplished. Edey, Ralph Sampson and the late Bill Walton are the only players to win the Naismith Men’s College Player of the Year award repeatedly.

The final game of Edey’s college career was a 37-point, 10-rebound performance in Purdue’s national championship loss to UConn. He was incredibly dominant throughout the entire tournament for the Boilermakers., posting huge stats while dealing with immense attention, avoiding foul trouble and being very efficient. During the six-game tournament, Edey averaged 29.5 points, 14.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.8 blocks.

While he’s pretty comfortable with the basics, Edey doesn’t stand out just because he’s so big. He has strong legs and plays with balance and power in the post. The 22-year-old has good touch and range on his hook shot, can shoot with both hands and has reliable counterattacks. He struggles to gain deep position, but Edey remains a serious scoring threat when he catches the ball a few feet from the paint.

Blocked shots don’t capture Edey’s full impact as a rim protector. At Purdue, he regularly deterred drivers and generally seemed to pick the right places to be aggressive. He doesn’t look like a young center who will chew on fakes and rack up fouls because he’s baffled by craftiness at the NBA level.

Edey started playing basketball late, concentrating on baseball and hockey until his sophomore year of high school. He continually improved during his four years at Purdue and further development wouldn’t be surprising at all.

Sixers head coach Nick Nurse was impressed when he worked with Edey on the Canadian team.

“I think he has a good IQ,” Nurse told reporters in 2022. “And to complement that… he has a great work ethic. He is a great worker. He has some rigid things that he believes he does, like he won’t leave the gym until he does his X amount of jump hooks with both hands. Literally nothing gets him out of the gym until he does some things. He starts and ends every practice and every workout a certain way and he’s kind of religious about it.”


No one would call Edey a “modern” NBA center.

He may be able to hit open jumpers from long range, but that wasn’t part of Edey’s game in college. (in addition to a single three deposited). He shot 71.1 percent from the foul line last season, which is fine, but doesn’t suggest he’s likely to break out as a three-point shooter anytime soon.

Edey is much more skilled as a scorer than a passer. If he does eventually get help defenders in the NBA, Edey will have to anticipate doubles and be less deliberate in his decision making.

Edey’s defensive concerns come down to the question of whether he can hold his own outside of the paint. Will his size and instincts be enough to play solid pick-and-roll coverage, even against quality shooters and speedy drivers? Will shooting big men push him toward the perimeter, cause long-range damage, and negate his abilities as a rim protector?

At the moment, Edey doesn’t seem like a player NBA coaches can trust in all defensive situations. It’s entirely possible that his team will need to be especially mindful of matchups and schemes, relying on drop coverage, and perhaps some zone, to play to his strengths and mitigate his lack of agility.


The extensive list of centers who will play behind Joel Embiid already includes a 7-foot-4 player in Boban Marjanovic. Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey served as the Rockets’ general manager during the final seasons of 7-foot-6 Yao Ming’s Hall of Fame career. Those experiences don’t hurt when considering whether Edey would be worth drafting to the Sixers at No. 16.

However, Nurse’s history with Edey himself is obviously more relevant.

“I love him, first of all,” Nurse told Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd in April. “I was 18, we were at our first training camp and we needed some of our young kids to be there. We had about four or five of them. And our guys didn’t know what to do with him. We couldn’t stop it. … I told him, ‘Listen, this guy has to be part of our program.’

“He is certainly a problem. And you know what else? He is super competitive. He is really a great worker. He’s out there every day working, he’s out there every day playing. There are probably a lot of things I like about this guy.”

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