Can Cleveland Cavaliers Big Man Tyler Zeller Be Compared To Bill Laimbeer?

By Nick Claussen
Rick Osentoski – USA TODAY Sports

Is Cleveland Cavalier Tyler Zeller a modern-day Bill Laimbeer?

And if so, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Zeller, a rookie forward/center out of North Carolina, is having a solid start to his first NBA season. Currently, Zeller is scoring 6.6 points and pulling down 4.8 rebounds per game. He has been active on offense and defense, and has been doing a good job of running the floor.

During the Cavs 89 to 79 loss to the Detroit Pistons on Monday, the Fox Sports Ohio television announcers came up with a new comparison for Zeller, saying his game reminded them of the former center for the Pistons back in the Bad Boys days.

The comparison was apparently made for two obvious reasons, because Zeller has a pretty good jump shot and because he wears a mask.

Now before I go too far, I should say that I was a huge Laimbeer fan back in the 1980s and 1990s. The guy was a solid offensive and defensive player, and he was hugely entertaining. I know that he was known as a dirty player, but he was also a great team player who helped the Pistons win two championships. Laimbeer was underrated as a player, and he was a key part of some great teams.

As a rookie, Zeller does have a quick and reliable jump shot that could be reminiscent of the former Bad Boy’s shot. So far, he is not shooting as far out as Laimbeer did, but his midrange jumper is better than expected for a 7 foot tall rookie.

Zeller can hit his shots from the top of the key, the elbows and the baseline, and he has hit some in big moments so far this season. That shooting is a nice bonus for the Cavs, and could be key part of the offense for years to come.

As for the mask, Zeller hurt his cheek in a game earlier this year and has had to wear it ever since that time. You could just as easily say Zeller reminds you of teammate Tristan Thompson, who also is wearing a mask right now, or any number of players who have worn masks in the NBA.

Zeller works hard and appears to be a good team player like Laimbeer was, but he is by no means known as a dirty player and seems to be a pretty nice guy.

And finally, Zeller can jump much higher than Laimbeer ever could. Of course, I think my grandmother could have jumped a lot higher than Laimbeer ever could, so that’s not saying a whole lot.

So is he a new Laimbeer? I say no. He’s got a ways to go skillwise before he can be considered to be as good as the former Piston, and he’s got a ways to go attitudewise before he can be considered to be as bad as the former Piston.

If he can help his team win a few championships down the road like Laimbeer did, though, Cavs fans won’t care about who is compared to, they will just want to see him knocking down shots and putting up banners.


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