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Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Tyler Zeller

Discuss Draft Dreams on Twitter using the #DraftDreams hashtag

Info

  • Measurables: 7-foot-0, 250 pounds, senior center from North Carolina
  • Key Stats: 16.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.4 blocks per game, 54 percent shooting
  • Projected: Late lottery
  • Hickory High Similarity Score

Why I like this guy

This season, Tyler Zeller became the 13th North Carolina player to win the ACC Player of the Year award. Among those 13: the greatest player in the history of mankind (Michael Jordan), a Hall of Famer (Billy Cunningham), an All-Star (Antawn Jamison), a PG with the makings of a future All-Star (Ty Lawson) and a handful of useful players (Tyler Hansbrough, Phil Ford, Larry Miller and Mitch Kupchak). In short, as a standout four-year player at UNC, Zeller comes with a pedigree that suggests he’ll at the very least carve out a serviceable NBA career for himself.

In four years at North Carolina, his scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and blocks per-game averages improved each season, as did his field goal percentage. His free throw percentage dipped as a sophomore, but was up to 80 percent as a senior. He won the Mr. Basketball award as a high school basketball player in the state of Indiana, one of the country’s biggest basketball hotbeds. Zeller might have slightly less upside than the younger bigs at the top of the lottery, but his improvement and work ethic are good predictors that he’s capable of having a very good, steady NBA career.

Pros for the Pistons

Listen to any Piston fan talk about the needs of this team for more than a minute, and they’ll quickly tell you: a shot-blocking, defensive-minded big man. Basically, they’ll describe Anthony Davis. Unfortunately, there’s only one Anthony Davis in this draft and the only way to get him is to win the lottery. Since a miserable start to the season, the Pistons have slowly figured out a few things on the court and are not quite as dreadful as they were early on. There’s a shot they could be picking in a familiar spot this year: middle of the lottery. Players with the skillset Davis possesses are extremely rare, so if they don’t get him, forget about the illusion that they can essentially find a poor man’s Anthony Davis somewhere else in the draft. That player doesn’t exist — the other lottery bigs all have much different attributes and weaknesses.

Zeller would be an intriguing fit on the Pistons offensively. Although he’s not going to be confused with Marcus Camby, he can block some shots. He’s probably a tad more athletic than Greg Monroe and he probably has a more advanced back-to-the-basket game than Monroe did coming out of Georgetown, although he, like Monroe, is also not a traditional, dump-it-inside-and-get-out-of-his-way type of big man either. Zeller’s greatest attribute is his speed. He’s one of the best big men in the country at running the floor and finishing around the basket. His fit next to Monroe would work fine, but that’s not what intrigues me. What intrigues me about Zeller is his fit with the Pistons’ starting guards.

Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight both have weaknesses as passers, but both are also blurs when it comes to pushing the ball up the court in transition. Both pass the ball better when the defense is scrambling and on its heels. Having a player like Zeller who can run with them, who has great hands and who finishes strong would be a nice target for those two. Monroe runs the floor well as does Jonas Jerebko, so adding Zeller to that trio could give the Pistons a pretty fun up-tempo unit to watch.

Zeller is also a pretty good offensive rebounder, as are Jerebko and Monroe. With perimeter players who are streaky and no strangers to off shooting nights, adding another player who can go get offensive rebounds wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Offensively, as Carolina’s best interior option, Zeller is used to getting a lot of attention from a defense, often facing double-teams. Playing next to an established offensive player like Monroe could potentially free Zeller up offensively as he adjusts to the NBA.

Zeller has also worked hard to add bulk to his frame at UNC. He got pushed around quite a bit his first couple years in college, but now Zeller is up around the 250 mark. He still needs to get stronger, but he’s clearly willing to work on his body and do that.

Most importantly, he’s an active, willing and smart defensive player, something the Pistons desperately need up front.

Cons for the Pistons

Although playing alongside a good rebounder in John Henson impacts this some, Zeller’s defensive rebound rate isn’t as strong as a lot of the other big men potentially available in the top of the draft. It’s not a huge issue for the Pistons since Monroe is a double-digit rebounder, but it would be nice to add a player to the frontcourt mix who will take some of that pressure off of Monroe.

Zeller also might be better suited to play power forward in the NBA. He’s gotten stronger in college, but he’s still probably not strong enough by NBA post player standards. Monroe’s biggest weakness is defense and although Zeller is a capable defender, he also might not be physically able to guard other teams’ best big men, so Monroe would likely still have those responsibilities. Freeing Monroe up from tough defensive assignments could help him stay fresher on offense. Zeller might be able to do that down the road, but probably not off the bat as a rookie.

What others are saying

Chad Ford:

We’ve made so much of Indiana’s Cody Zeller this season that his brother, North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller, has been flying under the radar. After a slow start, Tyler has really come on of late and has firmly planted himself back in the discussion as a late lottery pick. Zeller’s ability to run the floor combined with his soft touch around the basket is drawing some comparisons to a poor man’s Pau Gasol.

DraftExpress:

As we’ve mentioned before, Zeller has the physical tools to stand out at the college level, as there aren’t many players with his combination of size, mobility, and skill level. While not a top-shelf athlete, he runs the floor well and is able to elevate to finish and compete on the glass. His lack of physical strength is still his biggest weakness from a physical standpoint and area where he should really focus.

NBADraft.net:

Zeller has the prototypical height, length, run-jump athleticism, and touch of a good C prospect … He also has developing skills offensively as a post and face-up shooter … He will be a good fit in a fast-paced offense … Zeller needs more strength and to play tougher, right now he can be bullied on both ends by physical play in half-court situations

NBA Draft Blog:

Zeller is one of the best rebounders in the country.  His fundamentals are solid – blocking out, positioning, going after the ball fully extended and securing it.  Zeller is a solid shot-blocker with good timing and the ability to avoid fouling while going after the shot.

HoopSpeak:

Zeller proved plenty last March, averaging 26 points and 9 rebounds in Carolina’s four NCAA Tournament games. His play has been ACC POY-caliber over the past few games (this season).

What is the best thing Tyler Zeller does for his team?

Danny Nowell (follow him on Twitter) is a UNC fan and contributor to ESPN TrueHoop Network blogs HoopSpeak and Magic Basketball:

“Tyler provides two very real skills that I think will translate well to the NBA. He is extraordinarily fast for his size, and this allows him to compete on the defensive glass and often still be the first big man down the court on offense–he’s made a living receiving Kendall Marshall’s lead-out passes over his shoulder like a wide receiver. I also think that he has not missed a jump hook over his left shoulder since he was nine. His intangibles are stellar; he’s been an academic All-American for years, and I don’t know how many ACC POYs that’s true of. Heels fans have come to count on Zeller making up for his lack of lower body strength and elite athleticism with how hard he competes, and he’s put the team on his back pretty often this season.”

Previously

20 Comments

  • Mar 9, 201212:19 pm
    by Tiko

    Reply

    No thanks

    • Mar 9, 201212:31 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      What don’t you like about him?

      • Mar 9, 20121:36 pm
        by Tiko

        Reply

        I’m just being biased. I don’t want anyone other than Davis, Robinson, Drummond, Barnes, Gilchrest or Lamb

  • Mar 9, 201212:36 pm
    by neutes

    Reply

    Rather have Henson

    • Mar 9, 201212:38 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Sure, but Henson could stay in school or be off the board, depending on how the Pistons finish this season.

      • Mar 9, 201212:52 pm
        by RationalSportsFan

        Reply

        Agreed on Henson over Zeller.  And given the early signs that Barnes and Marshall will be leaving (along with Zeller obviously), it seems reasonable to expect Henson to come out this year.  Concerning Zeller vs Henson, Zeller can definitely run the floor quite well for a big and has a more polished offensive game than Henson.  But, I question how much Zeller’s offensive game will translate from the college level to when he faces NBA defenders.  I also worry that he will be manhandled on both ends by players with NBA size and athleticism.  I don’t have that worry for Henson on the defensive end (though it certainly remains on the offensive end).
        Here’s hoping the Pistons get lucky in the lottery and don’t have to choose from the likes of these late-lottery guys.

        • Mar 9, 201212:56 pm
          by Patrick Hayes

          Reply

          Henson’s shot-blocking/rebounding are his selling points, but he’s a good bet to get man-handled too. I know he’s gained some weight since last year, but he’s still got a pretty slight frame for a NBA big. I think he has more long-term potential than Zeller for sure, though.

          • Mar 9, 20121:03 pm
            by RationalSportsFan

            Agreed on Henson’s slight frame.  And projecting whether guys have room to fill out/put on significant muscle or weight is tricky business.  If I had to venture a guess, Zeller looks pretty maxed out in terms of filling out his frame (though adding muscle is always possible), whereas Henson does not appear like that.   Again, this is very speculative.
            Also, while I am worried about Zeller get manhandled in terms of size and athleticism, I only have that worry for Henson in terms of size.  I believe he has solid NBA athleticism right now.

  • Mar 9, 20121:13 pm
    by Peksecutioner

    Reply

    Its really a joy watching him and Henson rebound. His game has good chances to translate to NBA, similar to Faried. His ceiling is definitely lower than some players, like Jones,Sullinger,Drummond but he is not that big of a risk as well..But then again you can’t get anywhere without taking some risks. Problem is what if he’s just another player from good North Carolina team who never really make it in the NBA.

    • Mar 9, 20121:53 pm
      by RationalSportsFan

      Reply

      Faried isn’t the best comparison for Zeller.  Faried is an unpolished freak athlete, with some weird natural rebounding instinct.  Zeller is none of those things.

      • Mar 9, 20122:14 pm
        by Peksecutioner

        Reply

        Didn’t mean to compare those two, just what Faried was able to bring to NBA was predictable, it was pretty obvious that he could be steal of the draft. Zeller is not the same player, and wont be steal more consolation prize but you can get clearer picture of what he will bring to NBA than with some players.

  • Mar 9, 20121:23 pm
    by frankie d

    Reply

    i’d take zeller over henson.
    i think henson is going to be manhandled in the nba.
    zeller, is tyler hansbrough without the muscle.  he’ll contribute because of his motor and ability to get up and down the court.
    i just think that henson is going to be a manute bol-type…a guy who can shotblock and not much else.  while rebounding usually translates from college ball to the nba, i’m skeptical with henson.
    just  not a fan.
    trying to figure out how their frame might adapt to attempts to put on weight isn’t usually so tough.  usually you just have to look at the frame, and see if it has the room, essentially.
    for instance, i’d always wondered why danny ferry never made it big.  then i saw him near the end of his career when he was with the spurs and i was sitting right behind the visitor’s bench at seattle’s key arena.
    ferry looked like a freak.  he was ripped, it looked like he’d taken steroids or was just a weight room freak.  
    the problem was he had a physique like a preteen girl: extremely narrow shoulders, a tiny rib cage, very narrow hips.
    his body was meant to be tall and skinny and no matter how much he tried, he was always going to be a tall, skinny guy, except he was now a tall, skinny guy with bulging biceps and forearms that looked like they belonged on a guy who weighed 70-100 more pounds. 
    all of a sudden, i realized why an almost seven foot guy with 3 point range – sound familiar, pistons’ fans? – was such a mediocre pro.   he just didn’t have the body.
    i worry that henson has the same problem.  no matter how much he tries he will always be a tall, skinny, weak guy.  
    zeller might have the same problem, but i think he’d be able to overcome it with a game predicated on energy and running and activity.
    however, if i was going to pick a player like zeller, i’d probably try to get a better value with jeff withey of kansas.  withey is a better shotblocker and more athletic and you’d probably be able to pick him up late first, early second round.  withey looks like he might have more upside. 
    btw, have you thought about royce white for a profile?  saw him last night and he is an extremely intriguing guy.  incredible tools – he was carrying the ball around like it was a grapefruit – but a bona fide head case.  incredible talent, however.   he is a power forward, a george mcginnis sized power forward who was running iowa state’s offense and bringing the ball up the court.  amazing stuff.

  • Mar 9, 20121:26 pm
    by Daye and Knight

    Reply

    I wouldn’t mind having Zeller, he seems to have his head on straight, smart (all academic) and willing to improve. He’s a 7 footer that can run the floor and make us more of a fast pace team…and with that being said we have a glaring problem with that and his name is the “Former” Prince of Detroit in Tayshaun. Prince is sluggish and can’t thrive in fast breaks like he used to. That’s not to say I don’t want Zeller, but more and more I hope we trade Prince for a late pick or second rounder to make it easier for Zeller to be able to run with the rest of the team. It’s not a sure bet we can lure in a big man in free agency but if by chance we can get Lopez or McGee we should draft a small forward that can run…something b the mold of MKG, Jones III, Barnes or even Terrence Jones. Zeller is a good pick up and we need a big man so Monroe has help, but looking at life after the draft if we don’t nab a big man we can try during free agency. The same can not be said about SF. We don’t know what Singler plans to do and I don’t trust Daye starting. I’m not saying we need a SF over a big man, but I’m saying we have a weakness at both and should take a page out of the Lions book and draft “best player available” at either the SF and Center position.

    • Mar 9, 20121:28 pm
      by Daye and Knight

      Reply

      *in the mold

  • Mar 9, 20121:45 pm
    by Mel

    Reply

    Good prospect Zeller looks like a young Laimbeer, just a little quicker. Don’t forget most players coming out of North Carolina play can really translate to the pros. Unless you’re a Tyler Honeycutt.

    • Mar 9, 201211:38 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      He’s not close to the rebounder Laimbeer was and isn’t as strong. I do think he’ll be a solid NBA big man though.

      • Mar 10, 20123:26 pm
        by frankie d

        Reply

        agreed.
        laimbeer was a great rebounder.  an elite rebounder.  the importance of his rebounding to the bad boys has always been underrated.
        zeller doesn’t have that same nose for the ball.
        its hard to find an nba player who is like him. i cannot think of another center.
        he does remind me of hansbrough, though.    without the bowling ball impact on the court. he has  more finesse than the hansbrough muscle. 
        btw, the reason i don’t like henson is that he uses finesse to play a power game.  you can get away with that in college, because of pure talent and physical advantages.  in the pros he won’t have those physical advantages and trying to rebound and defend down low with finesse just won’t make it.

  • Mar 9, 20124:33 pm
    by rommel

    Reply

    i hope we can get him if we are picking in the 6 to 10 range again. Then draft will barton and ricardo ratliffe in the 2nd round. I expect them to be featured here too.

  • Apr 28, 20121:54 pm
    by Corey

    Reply

    We don’t need a small forward to run the floor. We need a big man that will be good enough to let JJ play small forward. Then he can start eating Tay’s minutes

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