Zach Edey is one of the most polarizing prospects in recent memory, making it hard to peg where he’ll go in the 2024 NBA Draft. The 7-foot-4, 300-pound big man left Purdue as the leading scorer and rebounder in program history. And he was the consensus National Player of the Year in 2024, marking the second consecutive year that he took down those honors. Realistically, an argument can be made that Edey was one of the most dominant big men in the history of college basketball. But there are still people that believe he has no place in the NBA.

Edey posted eye-popping numbers in his senior year, averaging 25.2 points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game on 62.3% shooting from the floor. And he led the Boilermakers to the championship game of the NCAA tournament, where he put up 37 points and 10 rebounds in a loss to an unbeatable UConn team. Edey gave it his all in that game, attempting to lead the Boilermakers to their first title in program history just one year after an embarrassing opening-round loss to Fairleigh Dickinson. But his supporting cast simply wasn’t good enough, and UConn was a well-oiled machine.

There was absolutely no shame in Edey being unable to lead Purdue to a championship. If anything, Edey showed that he can score with his back to the basket against Donovan Clingan, who is one of the better interior defenders in this year’s draft and has legitimate NBA size. With that in mind, that performance probably helped Edey’s stock.

Edey might never be a guy that can play 30 minutes on a nightly basis. There’s a lot of concern over whether or not he has the foot speed to defend at an adequate level, especially with the way the game is played in the NBA. Teams are going to try and get him to meet their guards at the level, and it’s very likely they’ll blow by him with relative ease. And playing Edey against teams like the Indiana Pacers or Oklahoma City Thunder, two of the top-five teams in the NBA in pace, could be impossible. But there were slower big men that contributed before him, there are slower big men that contribute right now, and there will be slower big men that contribute in the future.

Edey did work hard to improve his defensive footwork between his junior and senior years, and he deserves a lot of credit for the incremental changes he made. But guarding away from the basket, whether it’s defending guards on switches or just closing out on pick-and-pop bigs, will be a challenge for him. However, Purdue gave up only 0.779 points per possession with Edey on the floor in the half court, which is considered “very good.” And opponents only scored 0.82 points per possession on shots at the rim with Edey on the floor, which put him in the 77th percentile in college basketball.

Edey’s ability to stay vertical and use his overwhelming size to contest shots is valuable. There are still some traditional centers in the NBA, and Edey should be able to hold his own defensively against them. Centers like Jonas Valanciunas and Jusuf Nurkic aren’t all that different. They look fine in the right matchups, and they’re unplayable in others. So, whether it’s starting games or coming in for 15 to 20 minutes per night, Edey’s next team should be able to find spots in which he won’t look completely out of place.

The other end of the floor is where Edey will make his bread, though. There’s nothing pretty about the way Edey plays basketball, but his size completely changes the game. Not only is Edey just taller and stronger than everybody else, making him an excellent pick-and-roll partner and a great overall play finisher, but he also has impressive touch for a clumsy-looking center. Most of Edey’s self-created points are scored by him simply turning and muscling his defender out of the way to create space for a hook shot from six to eight feet away from the basket. And that touch is again evident in Edey’s ability to shoot free throws. Edey shot 11.2 free throws per game last year and he made 71.1% of them. That’s a very respectable number, especially on that volume.

Edey should continue to find ways to score, even against bigger NBA centers. Last year, Purdue scored 1.175 points per possession with Edey on the floor, which was good for the 97th percentile in college basketball. That’s just remarkable efficiency and you shouldn’t doubt whether or not it’ll translate, at least to some degree. As previously mentioned, Edey did some damage against Clingan in the finals, and he also had a big game (22 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists) against 7-foot, 260-pound Arizona center Oumar Ballo earlier in the year. Quite frankly, Edey has looked like a dominant player no matter how big his man is, and he’s going to continue to look massive against NBA centers, too.

It’s just unavoidable that teams are going to have to change the way they defend when Edey is on the floor. For teams without burly centers, help will need to be sent in Edey’s direction. That will create opportunities for Edey to find his shooters, and he got better and better at that in his time in West Lafayette.

Overall, Edey is going to be a guy that NBA teams can trust to contribute in a big way, it’ll just be extremely matchup dependent. And the fact that he’ll likely settle into a role in which he plays 20 or fewer minutes per night makes it hard to argue he should be drafted in the lottery. If there are potential All-Stars out there, teams need to take a shot on them. And even players with high-level role player ceilings might need to be prioritized over Edey. But in this weak draft, somebody is going to decide that they can use what Edey brings to the game. And it’s hard to see that being anywhere later than the end of the first round.