While many Cleveland Cavaliers fans have been focusing on first round draft pick Dion Waiters during the preseason, the team’s other first round pick could also have a big impact this year.
The 7-0 center/forward out of North Carolina isn’t getting as much attention so far, but he likely will play an important role inside for the young team this season.
As a senior playing in one of the top, if not the top basketball conference in America, Zeller averaged 16.3 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game during the 2011-2012 season. He also had an impressive shooting percentage of 55.3 percent. Zeller always seemed to be dunking, which likely pushed up that shooting percentage, but Cavs fans will gladly take another player who can take the ball inside and throw it down with authority.
In six preseason games with the Cavs, Zeller has played an average of 21.7 minutes per game, and has averaged 7.7 points and 4.3 rebounds each game. He also is shooting a very healthy 53 percent from the field.
Zeller’s preseason statistics aren’t going to jump out at most fans, but they show that the big man has been productive. And for his first year in Cleveland, Zeller just needs to be productive.
He doesn’t need to score a lot of points and he doesn’t need to be a highlight reel guy for the team to succeed. Zeller needs to come off the bench ready to defend, pull down rebounds, set screens and score when he is open. Like most rookies, he will have to get stronger, adapt to the speed of the game and just keep improving.
Zeller was a key player at one of the top college programs in the country, was named the ACC Player of the Year last season and knows how to win.
As a member of a young team that is looking to start winning and creating its identity, Zeller could end up being more than just “the other first round pick,” if he brings energy to the court, works hard, keeps getting stronger and keeps getting better this season and in the years to come.