The 7-0 center/forward had a great career at the University of North Carolina and was named the ACC Player of the Year as a senior, but many people questioned how his game would translate to the NBA. Would Zeller be strong enough to compete with the other big men in the paint? Would he be quick enough to get off a shot? Would be able to post up and score? And finally, which Zeller is he again?
More than halfway through his rookie season, Zeller has answered many of the questions and looks like a solid NBA player.
So far this season, Zeller has played in 55 games and started 33 of them. It is doubtful that the Cavaliers started the season thinking that the rookie big man would be in the starting line-up for 33 games. With Anderson Varejao injured for the majority of the season, though, Zeller has become a starter and responded well to the challenge.
He currently is averaging 8.1 points and 6 rebounds per game. He is shooting a solid 42 percent from the field and 77 percent from the free throw line. He is also averaging 1.3 assists and 1.3 blocks per game.
His statistics aren’t going to jump out at anyone, but they show that Zeller is contributing and helping the Cavaliers. He has had a few big games and several quiet games, but it is easy to see that he is improving.
Zeller has a pretty good mid-range jump shot, and that shot is going to help him a great deal in his career. He has the potential to become a scorer in the post, although with players like Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters driving to the hoop and also shooting plenty of jumpers, Zeller could make a living just picking up rebounds for scores and also dunking off of dishes when the guards are driving.
He also looks like he can be a pretty good defender. He’s not as quick as some big men, but he moves pretty well and he understands the game. He will need to keep getting stronger and keep improving on defense, but overall Zeller looks impressive.
Zeller likely would not be starting on many teams, but it’s good that he is getting valuable experience this season for the Cavaliers.
And as for his family, Zeller definitely has basketball in his genes. His younger brother Cody was the 2012 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and is a star for the University of Indiana. His older brother Luke played in the NBA D-League last season and spent time with the Phoenix Suns this season. And his uncle, Al Eberhard, played for the Detroit Pistons.
Tyler Zeller has a long way to go in his career, but so far he is answering many of the questions fans had about him, and he is looking like he could end up being a fan favorite for years to come.