DRAFT PROFILE: TYLER ZELLER
By: Kyle Bass, Hornets.com
Vitals: 7-0, 250 lbs.
Birthdate: Jan. 17, 1990
College: North Carolina (4 seasons)
Stats: 16.3 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 55.3 FG%, 80.8 FT%
One potential lottery prospect on NBA draft boards separates himself from the rest in an area that has absolutely nothing to do with talent. Former North Carolina center Tyler Zeller is the only lottery prospect that exhausted his collegiate eligibility, competing for four years with the Tar Heels.
Zeller is one of the few prospects in the draft that organizations aren't considering drafting early in the first round because of his upside or potential. The Washington, Ind., native is a 7-footer that can run the floor well and has great hands for a big man. In the post, Zeller has a decent offensive game with his back to the basket, having a more developed game than some of the other prospects in the draft, and he has a decent jump shot that could extend to the three-point line with work. Zeller's talent and skills could allow him to become an excellent factor in the pick-and-roll game in the NBA, as he could handle passes and finish above the rim or pop for a jump shot.
The 2012 ACC Player of the Year has a nice touch around the rim and the ability to finish with either hand. At the same time, he improved his free throw shooting each year, and was an excellent free throw shooter for a post player by his senior season. Also, Zeller added something new to his offensive game each year he was at North Carolina, something that pro teams love to see in players. Defensively, he has a very high basketball IQ and has a great understanding for positioning on the floor. While he isn't an imposing defender at the rim, he is a decent shot blocker and understands how to keep opponents from getting great position on the block. Zeller also has the length and size to rebound effectively in the NBA.
While Zeller doesn't provide much risk in the draft, many feel that he lacks elite athleticism or strength that most other lottery prospects provide. Having played four years in college, he is already mostly developed and does not have as much upside as some of the more talented lottery prospects. According to NBADraft.net, Zeller needs to get tougher in the paint and be more accepting of contact in the post. He also struggles with double-teams in the post and could improve on being aware of defensive collapses and passing the ball out of the post. Also, although his offensive game is more developed than many other post prospects in this draft, he could continue to work on and develop his offensive repertoire.
Some draft websites compare Zeller to former Hornet P.J. Brown, as well as Spencer Hawes. However, he could be very similar to the Hornets' own Jason Smith. Zeller is probably the least likely prospect to be a bust, and will hustle and provide solid frontcourt minutes to a NBA team.
*The information and opinions expressed about players referenced in this section are exclusively those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the Hornets organization's preferences for the June 28 NBA Draft.