NBA Draft 2012: Potential New Orleans Hornets No. 10 Draft Pick: Tyler Zeller

Will Osgood@@BRwillosgoodAnalyst IJune 15, 2012

ST LOUIS, MO - MARCH 25:  Tyler Zeller #44 of the North Carolina Tar Heels attempts a shot in the first half 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 Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It's already been discussed so much that it's beating a dead horse. It's the opposite of the elephant in the room. It's the worst-kept secret in an industry that revolves around keeping secrets. 

It is Anthony Davis being the first player selected in the 2012 NBA draft by the New Orleans Hornets. After New Orleans rejected an offer from the Cleveland Cavaliers for four top-34 selections in this year's draft, it is obvious the team intends to go forward with Davis as one of its cornerstone players. 

It was the obvious move for a Hornets franchise almost as desperate for an identity as it is for increased depth. The truth is the Hornets are probably one or two players away, and Davis is a major piece of that puzzle. 

With the 10th pick, the team clearly has options. Over the last couple of weeks, I've already discussed the merits of drafting Kendall Marshall here, and Austin Rivers here. Both of those players are guards who would mostly help improve the Hornets on the offensive end. 

There is another North Carolina Tar Heel who the Hornets are also reportedly very interested in. According to Hoopsworld, Tyler Zeller is among the players they have the most interest in with the No. 10 pick. 

The four-year Tar Heel instantly brings about comparisons to Indiana Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough. In some ways, that is a good comparison. But in reality, Zeller is a much better pro prospect. 

He brings a similar energy level to the game but combines it with about 20 times the skill. Unlike Hansbrough, Zeller is a legitimate center in the NBA from a size perspective (he comes in a 7'0"). 

And though Zeller did not win any major college awards, he was always viewed as a better pro prospect than Hansbrough, especially after competing for the U.S. national team during the past few summers. 



For a seven-footer, Zeller is a great athlete. He moves in the open floor as well as Anthony Davis, or at least he's close. That athleticism is also on display in the post where Zeller has very good footwork, which he uses to maneuver around the basket to get a good shot. 

And though he is super tall, the guy can jump. He may not be Andre Drummond athletically, but his level of athleticism, combined with his basketball acumen, make him the best center prospect in the draft. 

Where he compares favorably to Hansbrough is in the area of shooting the ball. Zeller is a good shooter up to 18 or 19 feet and a high-percentage shooter at the free-throw line. In a few years, he and Davis together could make the Hornets a great pick-and-pop, pick-and-roll team. 

And together, the team would be a great offensive rebounding team. It could even become a great shot-blocking team with Zeller, who was overshadowed at North Carolina in this area but certainly possesses the skill. 



Though tall and athletic, Zeller has a lot of room to improve in the weight room. He is far from the strongest player in this draft. This can be a big deal when established NBA centers are pushing him out to 12 feet and killing him on the glass with brute strength. 

Some scouts criticize his offensive awareness and instincts. They tend to say he is slow to react to double-teams and anything but a good passer out of the post. Some even go as far to critique the lack of a left-handed hook shot, despite his possessing the best right-handed hook in college basketball. 



Zeller is a wonderful prospect who is probably already a better version of Jason Smith. He will be slightly more physical and athletic. In a few years, he could take over for Emeka Okafor and give the Hornets a young, dynamic frontcourt similar to the makeup of the Los Angeles Clippers

In the meantime, Zeller could provide great production as a bench player who is capable of coming in to make a few outside jumpers and provide interior toughness on both ends and much-needed energy on the second unit. 

Combined with Anthony Davis, the Hornets would figure to have the best pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop frontcourt in the NBA. At that point, they'd only need a point guard to run those sets. Eric Gordon or Greivis Vasquez could be the answer to that dilemma. 

That would make the Hornets one of the toughest offensive teams to stop. And they're already one of the best defensive teams in the league.