Tyler Zeller Traded to Cavaliers: Scouting Report, Video Highlights and Analysis
Before Andre Drummond declared for the draft, Tyler Zeller was the consensus top center on the board. As a true seven-footer, he has the ideal height to immediately make an impact at the next level, no adjustment time necessary.
Though he and his Tar Heel teammates were unable to fulfill the expectations of many by making an NCAA title run, Zeller nevertheless used the 2011-12 season to increase his draft stock, becoming the ACC Player of the Year and averaging 16.3 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.
One of the most encouraging aspects of Zeller as a player is the way he's steadily improved each and every year in Chapel Hill, raising his per-game averages and growing into his frame in order to solidify himself as a top prospect.
Zeller could stand to get a bit stronger in order to be able to utilize his frame to its fullest potential at the next level, but he's already succeeded in establishing himself as an athletic, competent shooter who can run the floor with the best of them, despite his size.
What Zeller Brings to the Team
Zeller is a top prospect because he offers his team an immediate opportunity to get better on both ends of the floor. He's a great shooter, not just in the paint but from the perimeter as well, and his size on the boards is difficult to contend with.
One thing Zeller has going for him that players like Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are lacking is the fact that he's one of the most fully-developed players in the draft. There aren't a lot of questions with him as far as his potential and his ceiling because, in four years at North Carolina, he's had plenty of time to show the scouts what kind of player he is.
And with those four years in college comes a certain maturity that some of the diaper dandies are still in the process of achieving. His strengths are very clear, as are his weaknesses. He knows he has to add strength in order to prove he can truly contend with other centers in the NBA, and once he does that, he can be an impact player.
What They Are Saying
ESPN.com's Chad Ford ranks Zeller as the No. 2 center on the board, and Ford is among the many who rave about Zeller's ability to run the floor despite being 7'0" and 250 pounds. Even among the deep pool of talent the Tar Heels boasted in 2011-12, Ford considered Zeller to be the best and most productive player on the team.
Still, Ford asks, "Is he strong enough to play the 5 in the NBA? Does he do anything well enough to be a standout at the next level?"
DraftExpress.com's Walker Beeken shares the same concerns about Zeller's strength. He hasn't established himself as a decisively imposing defensive presence, but he still never shies away from content in the paint and has made a concerted effort to get stronger and tougher. Plus, he makes up for some of his physical shortcomings with a high basketball IQ.
Beeken writes, "He's a very cerebral defender who understands positioning… . He'll likely never be considered a game-changing defender at the center position, but his smarts and instincts should enable him to fit into a defensive scheme."
Zeller has had four years to prove what kind of player he is. Now, it's up to his performance in summer league to show that he's a strong enough, and a solid enough frontcourt presence to truly contend with other NBA centers.
He can still add some strength and he has the intelligence and the drive to improve. He might spend a year coming off the bench as a backup or filling in at the 4 in an effort to truly test his NBA mettle.
The Cavs took Syracuse guard Dion Waiters with the fourth pick, giving them needed backcourt scoring. In Zeller, they got help up front. (They needed help everywhere but point guard, where Kyrie Irving is firmly installed.)
Zeller's ability to make it up and down the court and his combination of good hands and a nice touch from any range should make him a nice fit alongside Waiters and Irving.
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