Zach Edey has been a polarizing figure in college basketball while dominating the competition in back-to-back seasons. He leaves Purdue with an elite collegiate résumé, but questions continue to swirl about his stock for the NBA Draft.

Among opposing fans, many have questioned Edey’s true skill level as a player who is seemingly just good because he is bigger than the competition. At least on Monday night, Edey dispelled that notion by going toe-to-toe with Donovan Clingan, UConn’s 7-foot-2 big man and widely regarded as a key prospect for the draft if he leaves the Huskies early.

Beyond that single game against UConn, Edey has gotten better every year of his college career as the rare player who did not pick up the sport until later in his childhood. He also has rare stamina for a player of his 7-foot-4 stature with an ability to play 40 minutes almost every game of the NCAA Tournament run.

While some fans will continue to harp on Edey’s game, there is a growing group of analysts who believe there is still a spot for Edey to thrive in the NBA, even in the modern game of basketball. Jay Bilas, a former college star himself and one of ESPN’s top broadcasters, believes Edey is primed to have a long and successful NBA career.

“He’s going to play in the NBA, and as long as he stays healthy he’s going to play for a long time,” predicted Bilas on “The Rich Eisen Show.”

“You could argue that he’s the most improved player from last year to this year, and he’s the reigning National Player of the Year… not only is there a place for him in the NBA, there’s a significant place.”

As for the draft, Bilas views Edey as a likely top 20 pick in what could be a down year in the draft. Coming off the board as a lottery pick is also not out of the question.

Colin Cowherd echoed a similar sentiment, pointing to Edey’s unblockable shot and ability to stay on the court in the tournament:

“Nobody’s blocking (Edey’s) shot… He played more minutes than anybody in the tournament… I can’t believe there’s not a spot in pro basketball for him,” Cowherd said adamantly on his show.

John Henson, a former star forward for UNC with an 8-year NBA career, also offered his thoughts on Edey. Henson specifically referenced Edey’s battle with Clingan as something that boosted his belief that Edey can succeed at the next level.

“It made me be a little more bullish on (Edey’s) NBA prospects. I felt like Clingan was going to be a top pick, Edey worked him a little bit,” Henson explained.

Best comp for Edey

When it comes to a player of Edey’s stature, it’s not hard to find a comp for his playing style. Former European star Boban Marjanovic (a 7-foot-3 big man) has consistently come up, and it’s one that seems fitting with a few caveats.

At age 21, Marjanovic was still playing in Europe, and he would not transition to the NBA until he was 27 years old. In terms of efficiency, Marjanovic has been effective throughout his career, but his career-high for minutes per game is 11.7 from the 2018-19 season.

Simply based on age, Edey has a shot to break into the NBA much sooner, and we know his conditioning is at another level to whatever Marjanovic had when he made the transition. And the point to consider here is not if Edey will be an MVP-caliber player but rather will he be an effective player in the NBA.

By all accounts, Edey has the conditioning and physical makeup to stay on the court in the NBA, even with the changes in the game related to spacing and play in the paint. The main issue for other players of Edey’s size (such as Yao Ming, the famous 7-foot-6 star for the Houston Rockets) has been injuries.

If Edey can remain healthy, he is likely to hang around in the NBA for a solid career.