Profiling the NBA Draft: Tyler Zeller

In anticipation of the NBA Draft Lottery on May 30th, we will be profiling each of the top-10 players in the NBA Draft, discussing strengths, weakness, and how each player could theoretically fit or not fit with the Cavaliers. We’ll also be doing the same with the prospects ranked in the 20-30 range too, as an introductory preview to the options available to the Cavs for each of their two First Round Draft picks.

No. 10 – Tyler Zeller, senior, North Carolina 2011-12 Stats: 16.3 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 1.5 blocks, 55% shooting:

North Carolina Tar Heels forward Tyler Zeller (44) shoots between Kansas Jayhawks forward Thomas Robinson (L) and guard Conner Teahan (R) in the first half of their men's NCAA Midwest Regional basketball game in St. Louis, Missouri, March 25, 2012.
With the Cavs sitting with the third best odds entering the draft lottery, they will be picking no later than sixth. That almost ensures them of getting another scorer to go alongside Kyrie Irving. In looking at a few top 10 lists for draft prospects, they were all pretty similar, with a couple differences. Sitting at #10 is Tyler Zeller. The 7-footer out of North Carolina won the ACC Player of the Year and put together some solid numbers in his final season in Chapel Hill. And he still isn’t the most highly touted prospect in his family (younger brother Cody returned to Indiana for his sophomore season).

The elder Zeller elevated his draft stock his senior season. Offensively, he does most of his damage in half court sets in the post. He has a great motor; he runs the floor extremely well for his size and is able to finish at the rim at a high rate. Zeller also has a nice mid-range jump shot, though he didn’t get to use it much. A 7-footer with a mid range game and soft touch around the basket are always in demand. Zeller showed he is a very strong rebounder, as evidenced by 16 double-figure rebounding games too. He posted a 20-point, 22-rebound game in the Tar Heels’ Sweet 16 game against Ohio.

Defensively is where Zeller will need work. It is not that he is a bad defender, but for a 7-footer, he didn’t dominate the paint like he probably should have. He only averaged 1.5 blocks a game, which ranked 102nd in the nation. Athletically, he is above average in regards to running the floor on the break. But he won’t make jaws drop with an explosive vertical. He will also need to hit the weights, as he is not the strongest guy in the world right now. His frame has room to add some much needed muscle though.

For being generally ranked in the top 10, Zeller doesn’t project to be a star in the League. But, he is skilled enough offensively and has the tools to become a solid player for many teams. If somehow he ends up on the Cavs, he instantly gives them a low post presence offensively they haven’t had in a few seasons. He would allow Tristan Thompson to slide back over to his natural position. He would be a solid backup and probably the first big man off the bench, but let’s be honest, after watching them this season, that wouldn’t be very hard to do.

I have tried to think a scenario where the Cavs grab Tyler Zeller, but I haven’t been able to. Zeller is a nice player, but for the Cavs, he isn’t a top five talent and he doesn’t play the position of greatest need; which everyone knows is a wing player. 

Follow Nick Mancini on Twitter @NickMance

Brendan Bowers

About Brendan Bowers

I am the founding editor of I am also a content strategist and social media manager with Electronic Merchant Systems in Cleveland. My work has been published in SLAM Magazine, KICKS Magazine, The Locker Room Magazine,,, and elsewhere. I've also written a lot of articles that have been published here.