What would Zeller bring to the Pistons?
Shinons*: Brandan Wright is a trending favorite among DBBers as a free agency target. Zeller would bring many of the same qualities that Wright does. Efficient, versatile scoring with mediocre rebounding. The biggest difference is the defensive end, where Wright's length helps him as a shot-blocking threat. The only area where he really stands out is in getting to the line, which he does more than 7 times per game and converts 75% of the time.
Mike Payne: A productive offensive big man with room to grow. His ability to draw contact and convert well at the line makes him more valuable than he might appear at first glance.
Ben Gulker: If his game transitions to the NBA successfully, everything an NBA team would want in a big man. He scores the ball efficiently even while being responsible for creating his own shots, both from the post and facing up. He's great on the boards, and he blocks shots. He's also a very good free throw shooter for a big man, and he's excellent at getting to the line to boot. He's also got all that intangibly stuff the scouts like, and in this case, it's paid off big time on the court.
Sean Corp: A whirling dervish energy that is perfectly suited to a sixth-man role and could prove infectious to his teammates and help get the crowd pumped up. Think Walter Hermann, Jonas Jerebko or Will Bynum. He will play hard, he will play smart and he will find a way to get the ball into the basket. I'm not sure how others feel about him but I have a feeling I'm a bigger Zeller supporter than most. I just feel like he has the instincts and craftiness to score in the NBA and that his lack of strength and size won't be as much of an issue as people fear, at least on the offensive end. I feel like he could be a perfect sixth man in Detroit and those types of players have value. He attempted 259 free throws last season, one of the best marks for big men in college basketball. That tells me a lot about his basketball instincts.
Kevin Sawyer: Efficient scoring. As a bona fide first options, Zeller registered a solid 62% TS his sophomore year. Zeller has a sophisticated arsenal of offensive moves, and is adept at getting to the line. As a 20 year old 7 footer, he has the size and the time to develop into an even more dominating player on the offensive end.
Biggest red flag?
Shinons*: His tiny arms. When's the last time we've seen a legitimate seven footer with only a 6'8 wingspan? Still though, this could play out to be a positive though as he could be dubbed a T-Rex. Or perhaps Z-Rex?
Really though, combined with his lack of athleticism, it definitely impacts his finishing and rebounding ability and limits his upside at the next level.
Mike Payne: There aren't really any pronounced risks with Cody Zeller. He looks like a pretty effective package without the exciting shot-blocking and athleticism.
Ben Gulker: There are some legitimate questions about how well his game will translate to the NBA, seemingly derived from some concerns about his wingspan. At the NCAA level, this was unnoticeable; in almost every game he played, he was the most dominant big man on the floor by a wide margin. Obviously, we'll know more about his measurables shortly, but I'd argue it would be better to analyze how big he has played than how big he measures. Here's a quick plug for some statistical analysis I think is pretty good - Zeller ranks sixth overall.
Sean Corp: His lack of size, particularly his lack of lower body strength concerns me. I think he might get eaten alive by low-post players in the NBA. He doesn't seem to have the body type that is going to allow him to bulk up in a major way so he is destined to get pushed around down low, give up position and high-percentage scoring opportunities. That might prevent him from being a starter in the NBA but I do think there is a place for him on the bench and in the rotation.
Kevin Sawyer: His rebounding and defensive numbers were unremarkable, especially for someone his height. Team's should be concerned about his lack of improvement. Indeed, he seemed to demonstrate his eye-popping 67% TS from his freshman season was something of a fluke. While he cut down on fouls, he compensated by increasing turnovers. For someone whose value lies entirely in his offensive efficiency, that's a bad thing.
It's also really difficult to forget just how bad Tyler Zeller was this season, though that probably isn't fair?
On a scale of 1/10, how would you feel about Zeller joining the roster?
Shinons*: 4/10. When you watch Zeller, you don't see the appeal. You see him go for long stretches making no impact in any aspect of the game and when he does realize that he needs to assert himself, he does something awkward that results in him being blocked or falling weirdly. You shake your head. But you watch IU go on to win, and you check the box score and see that Zeller has 16 points on 10 shots, 8 boards, and a couple blocks, steals, and assists. Where did that come from?
Zeller's being underrated as a prospect. Indiana's record went to 10-21 and 12-20 before Zeller to 27-9 and 29-7 with him. He's not an exciting player, but he's effective.
Mike Payne: 4/10. He'd be a nice backup big man, but the Pistons should try to address that in free agency. Detroit would be wise to spend their draft pick on a position of need.
Ben Gulker: I'm going to go quite a bit higher than (I think) a lot of DBB'ers would go: 8/10. Here's why:
First of all, the stats suggest he's going to be a good NBA big man. Immediate production seems likely, starting-caliber production in time equally so. So even if my trade scenarios (detailed below) are fantasy, the worst-case scenario is a three-headed monster of a big man rotation up front. Obviously, the Pistons need to address shooting guard and small forward desperately, but as it stands, there isn't much depth behind Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe either. Zeller's athleticism grants him the versatility necessary to be successful at either big position depending on match ups, so he could spell either position with thoughtful rotation planning, and be paired with either Drummond or Monroe depending on match ups.
Now, the trade scenario. I'll be doing some more analysis on this later this spring, but here's the short version: all signs point to the Pistons being conservative in free agency this summer and retaining some of their cap space going into trade season so that they can absorb more contracts coming in than going out.
Typically, a player on a rookie-scale contract can only return a player on a similar contract; that won't apply to Detroit if Dumars does as he's hinted. In that scenario, it isn't difficult to imagine trade built around a lottery-caliber player like Zeller (say Zeller + Knight for fun) that brings back 2-3 players at positions of need, and maybe future draft considerations as well.
This would be the type of salary cap management that is making Daryl Morey a cult legend. Whether or not Joe has the freedom to pursue that type of long-viewed approach is unknown.
Sean Corp: 8/10. He could be the first big man off the bench right away (YHIHF). He does a lot of what Jonas Jerebko does but with more traditional power forward skills. And while he was never asked to shoot from the perimeter in college (only attempted 24 jump shots), he has a good shooting stroke and I think could add that to his arsenal in the NBA, which would help him utilize his quickness and driving ability against the much bigger players in the NBA. He might never be a starter in the NBA but that shouldn't disqualify him from being a top-10 pick in this draft. If my choice was between Zeller and Shabazz Muhammad or CJ McCollum I would probably pick Zeller.
Kevin Sawyer: 3. I'm not a fan. If you are going to go for a big man who scores efficiently, but doesn't rebound or block shots, my preference would be Kelly Olynyk, who led all prospects in shooting efficiency with a higher usage rate. At best, you've got Brook Lopez. Pass.
Now, your thoughts.