Prospect Profile: Tyler Zeller

Lottery teams in search of centers know exactly who the top target at the position is in this year's class.  If you have the good fortune of landing a pick between No. 2 and 5, the high-risk, high-reward Andre Drummond could be yours.  After that, it gets a little bit tricky.  Ohio State sophomore Jared Sullinger had some GMs drooling this time last season before he opted to stay in school for another season.  The Buckeye has a more advanced post game than your average 20-year-old but at 6'9" is shorter than your average center as well.  Teams that are less-than-enamored with Sullinger (or, drafting after he is taken) will take a long, hard look at North Carolina center Tyler Zeller.

The UNC standout improved his stock greatly by turning in a strong senior season in which he was the most reliable option on a star-studded team.  Zeller averaged 16.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, and shot 55.3% from the floor as he stuck close to the rim in 2011/12.  In fact, he stayed so close to the rim that he hardly got the opportunity to show off his shooting range.  In previous seasons, the 22-year-old has shown the ability to bury shots from mid-range and sometimes a step beyond.

While his 55.3% field goal percentage is impressive, the most eye-popping number on his stat sheet just might be his 81% success rate at the charity stripe.  Zeller was widely mocked for his aversion to physical play as an underclassman but he has flipped a switch in recent years.  Now that he has shown that he won't shy away from contact, you can expect the big man to get plenty of opportunities at the free throw line.

Unlike Sullinger, Zeller can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Association's big men at 7'0".  He's also unlike Sullinger in that he doesn't have the world's most polished offensive skill set with his back to the basket.  However, that's not unique to 7-footers coming into the league and it's likely something that Zeller will be able to develop with time.  His post game should be accelerated by adding bulk to his 250 pound frame and any team that tabs Zeller will insist that he hits the weight room from day one.  Will he get the distinction of being the second center off of the board on June 28th?  That'll be largely dictated by where the ping-pong balls land and how the two perform in pre-draft workouts.

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