Tyler Zeller: Highlights, Analysis and Pro Projections

Brian Mazique@@UniqueMaziqueCorrespondent IIIJune 11, 2012

ST LOUIS, MO - MARCH 25:  Tyler Zeller #44 of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks to pass against Thomas Robinson #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Midwest Regional Final at Edward Jones Dome on March 25, 2012 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Tyler Zeller is a true center with a great motor, but he's limited by mediocre athleticism. He is the rare four-year NBA draft prospect, and he helped guide the North Carolina Tar Heels to a Final Four appearance in the 2011-2012 season.

The true seven-footer is one of only a handful of seniors I have projected to be taken in the first round of the NBA draft. Zeller improved in every major statistical category, in every year at Chapel Hill.

Zeller comes from a basketball family; he is the nephew of former NBA player Al Eberhard, and the brother of Indiana University star Cody Zeller and former Notre Dame player Luke Zeller.

His effort and durability give him very low bust potential, but teams and fans must understand what type of player they're getting in Zeller. Jorrye Nixon of NBADraft.net said: 

"He will be a good fit in a fast-paced offense."

I would agree as this gives him a chance to out-hustle less mobile bigs down the floor.

Here is a scouting report on the Carolina big man highlighting his strengths and weaknesses.

(Height, weight and stats per statsheet.com)

 

ST. LOUIS, MO - MARCH 23:  :  :  :  Tyler Zeller #44 of the North Carolina Tar Heels dunks in the first half against Reggie Keely #30 and Walter Offutt #3 of the Ohio Bobcats during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Midwest Regional Semifinal at Edward Jones
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Profile:

Height: 7' 

Weight: 250 pounds 

School: North Carolina

Date of Birth: January 17, 1990

Best NBA Position: Center

College Stats: (Key Stats Underlined) 16.3 PPG, 28.2 MPG, 55.3 FG%, 0 3FG%, 80.8 FT%, 0.9 APG, 9.6 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 0.9 SPG

 

Skill Grades

Athleticism: B-

Size: A

Intangibles: A+

Rebounding: A

Ball Handling: B

Defense: A

Shooting: A-

Passing: B+

Post Game: A-

Basketball IQ: A-

Upside: B-

 

Strengths

Zeller is a hard-hat, lunch box player, and at seven feet tall that is a solid prospect. He plays hard all the time, runs the floor well and gives great effort on both ends of the floor. 

ST LOUIS, MO - MARCH 25:  Tyler Zeller #44 of the North Carolina Tar Heels attempts a shot in the first half against Jeff Withey #5 of the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Midwest Regional Final at Edward Jones Dome on March 25, 2012
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

He's a solid rebounder who gets good position on the offensive and defensive glass. His biggest asset in the NBA, as far as skills are concerned, will be his shooting ability. Zeller is accurate and consistent on his jump shot out to 17 feet. I could easily see him extending that range to three-point distance.

He also has a solid post game. He can finish with nice jump hooks, or face up and take the mid-range jump shot. Zeller displays a good understanding of the game. His defensive positioning and rotation are solid. On offense, he understands positioning and angles well.

He is also an 80 percent free-throw shooter, and that is always a great quality in a big man.

Zeller's versatility is on display in this video:

 

Weaknesses

He has a credit card vertical, and he tends to keep the ball too low in traffic. This tendency will lead to strips, and him getting his shot blocked a lot more than it should.

Because of Zeller's athletic deficiencies, he has little upside. He is what you see, but that is a very capable and solid big man.

With size at a premium in the NBA, a legit seven-footer who plays hard is worth a late lottery pick.

 

NBA Player Comparison

1989:  Mike Gminski #42 of the Philadelphia 76ers watches the 1989-1990 NBA season game.  (Photo by Mike Powell/Getty Images)
Mike Powell/Getty Images

Slightly More Athletic Mike Gminski

Mike Gminski was a solid center in the NBA during the 1980s and early 1990s for several NBA teams. In his 13-year-career, Gminski averaged 11.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He was a very good jump shooter, passer and free throw shooter.

He did have some limitations as an athlete, but he was skilled and he played hard. This profile is very similar to Zeller, though I think he's a little better athlete than Gminski was.

Seven-footers with a solid motor can play as long as they want. If you throw in some decent offensive abilities, Zeller will have a solid NBA career.

 

Draft Projection

From No. 10 to No. 18

 

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