Dime NBA Draft Profile: Tyler Zeller

They used to call it one of the best draft classes of the last 25 years. Now, it’s looking more and more like Anthony Davis… and then everybody else. Still, this Thursday, the 2012 NBA Draft will bring hope, and hopefully new talent to some teams that desperately need it.

As we do every year, Dime will be holding you down with mock drafts, player interviews and diaries (you should check out Dion Waiters‘ draft diary), and we will also be bringing you draft profiles for every potential prospect deemed worthy. With this year’s crop of talent, that list is long. Our last profile was on the future of Kansas’ Thomas Robinson. Today, we’re looking at UNC’s Tyler Zeller.

*** *** ***
Best Case: Greg Monroe
Worst Case: Greg Stiemsma
Final Comparison: Zaza Pachulia

Zeller’s athleticism is extremely limited. His wingspan of seven feet is rather pedestrian as it matches his height, and he doesn’t jump out of his shoes either. This, arguably, is the weakest part of Zeller’s overall basketball profile and is much of the reason why he’s slid down draft boards. He will have trouble defending bigs who play above the rim, and offensively he has consistently shown that athletic bigs can and will alter his shot around the rim, as he is not strong or quick enough to power through or slide around. However, Zeller runs the floor more effectively and more often than any other big in this draft. This should provide a huge advantage for Zeller as he picks up easy points against lazier NBA players.
Grade: 5

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Over his four years at UNC, Zeller has developed into an efficient low post scorer. He can score from 5-7 feet with a jump hook with either hand and in general has excellent touch around the rim. Zeller is also an improving shooter – although the system at UNC prohibited him from stepping away from the basket, he has shown the ability in workouts to hit shots from 15-20 feet with consistency. Zeller also shot 80.8 percent from the free throw line this past season and has shown the craftiness to get defenders in the air and draw fouls.
Grade: 7

NBA Readiness
As a four-year college player, the nuances of Zeller’s game are especially refined – he won’t need time to sit on the end of the bench to develop his skills. Furthermore, his willingness to hustle and run the floor, arguably better than any other player in this draft, will always earn him playing time. So expect Zeller to contribute early and often in his NBA career.
Grade: 8

This is what has hurt Zeller’s stock the most. Players like Meyers Leonard have flown up draft boards because of their potential – NBA teams always salivate at what could be. Zeller, meanwhile, is generally viewed as a near-finished product. For the most part, this is true – Zeller has played in college for four years and mostly shown us what he’s got. But if he can stretch the floor with his jump shot in the NBA, something he didn’t have a chance to do in college, it could really add to his value and potential upside.
Grade: 5

Academic All-American, well spoken, great attitude, all of that. Zeller’s intangibles are off the charts. If NBA teams could build a locker room with the intangibles of 15 Tyler Zellers, they would. Basketball wise, Zeller has a great feel for the game. He positions himself well, draws charges and talks on defense. There’s really no knock on Zeller here other than, maybe, his kind of childish haircut.
Grade: 9

Combined score: 34 out of 50 possible points.

Best Fit For: Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks are thin on the front line, and some youthful legs willing to hustle and work on the block would be a nice compliment to Dirk Nowitzki. Although Zeller’s lack of standout length and athleticism will prevent him from becoming the shot blocker Dallas might need, his willingness to bang down low and work on the boards for an older Maverick squad will provide a welcome sign of youthful energy.

“Mature seven-footer who displays a nice post game with his ability to play with his back to the basket and hit the open face up jumper just inside 3-point range. Zeller’s athleticism is relatively pedestrian by pro standards, upside is limited and he isn’t the strongest player in the paint, but he’s a fundamental post player that can step in and get the job done in the paint for a team at the NBA level.” — Swishscout.com.


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