Center, 7’0″, 247 lbs.
Senior, University of North Carolina
22 years old
Tyler Zeller Highlights
2011-12 Stats: 16.3 PPG (55.3% FG, 80.8% FT, 0.0% 3FG), 9.6 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.5 BPG, 1.9 TOPG
STRENGTHS: Tyler Zeller is a prototypical center. He enjoys playing with his back to the basket and shows a variety of solid post moves. He knows how to score. That said, Zeller isn’t glued to the paint. Much like his UNC teammate John Henson — and maybe even better — he runs very well for a 7-footer and gets quickly up and down the floor. His 80 percent free throw mark is encouraging; he’s not a guy you’ll have to worry about at the end of games. Defensively, his size and instincts help him succeed against opponents. He tries to make up for a lack of quickness with his smarts. Being a four-year player at one of the better schools in the country, Zeller is well-developed and ready to contribute immediately.
WEAKNESSES: Zeller is a big boy, but he still needs to get stronger to deal with some of the physical specimens in the NBA. The flip side of him being a four-year product is that his potential to improve is in question. What you see may be what you get and is that enough to warrant a top-5 pick? While Zeller isn’t a lost cause shooting the basketball, he could clearly make some strides from the perimeter. He blocked 1.5 shots per game but that is not his strong suit. Those who focus on measurements will note that his wingspan, at 7’0″, is equal to his height; he doesn’t have the length of some other prospects. He also doesn’t have the athleticism of some other bigs, as far as quickness of moves and leaping ability.
HOW HE’D FIT WITH THE KINGS: Zeller is a candidate to start from Day 1. More likely, he falls behind Jason Thompson and provides low-post scoring off the bench. But again, when you draft a guy this high, the intention should be he will start soon. Playing with DeMarcus Cousins, Zeller can keep defenses honest with his ability to score around the basket. DMC, a willing passer, will enjoy Zeller’s ability to finish with both hands. For the Kings, you’d like to see him shoot the ball better and make better decisions passing, as Sacramento relies on their big men to complete both skills. His ability to run the floor and set solid screens will make him a friend to Isaiah Thomas, but he’ll have to prove his outside shot is good enough to be an effective pick-and-roll player for Sacramento. Defensively, he’d give the Kings a second big body, but he’s not a big protector of the basket. Sacramento would continue to excel on the boards with Zeller, who crashes both ends well.
APPROVAL: No. Geoff Petrie may be intrigued, seeing Zeller as a more polished Spencer Hawes. But where’s the upside? Sure, it’s nice to pencil in a 7-footer who you can count on to grab boards and run the floor. But at No. 5, you’ve got to take a chance. Zeller does several things well, but he’s not a top-5 prospect in my estimation. There’s just too many other prospects who could make a bigger impact for the Kings.
WHERE HE GOES: Zeller worked out for the Kings (5), but his selection would be a shocker for Sacramento fans. After the Kings, several teams may be interested. The Blazers (6, 11), Pistons (9) and Bucks (12) could be possible landing spots. Zeller may fall outside of the lottery but Houston having two picks (14, 16) and a need for young size should keep Zeller from slipping outside the top 16.