Tyler Zeller, No. 16 (Mock Draft)
The ACC Player of the Year finds a home in H-Town.
We’re already buzzing in Houston over our first pick, Austin Rivers, in the 14th spot and why shouldn’t we? The kid’s a potential star in the making who gives Houston some much needed media exposure. Now it’s time to complement that choice.
Being a GM isn’t simply a matter of filling in roster spots, unless you’re Joe Dumars taking Darko Milicic. (We’ll never forget.) There are trade possibilities, contract negotiations for current players, and a carousel of emerging challenges and personalities to work with each day. We’re taking that into consideration with our 16th pick.
The opportunity to grab Syracuse’s Dion Waiters is absolutely appealing. Many NBA analysts have him rising into the top 10, possessing the ability to be an explosive scorer off the bench and the type of presence needed when the alpha dogs need a wind. A high energy player on offense is always enticing, but there is always two sides to the coin. Walters, 6-4, is undersized at the 2. He doesn’t attack the basket nearly enough and we’re not sold on his ability to defend shooting guards in isolation. In all honesty, he would become a trading piece for the Rockets, since we don’t need four players at the 2 (Kevin Martin, Courtney Lee and Austin Rivers all being on your hypothetical roster).
With that in mind, we want a player who can have an immediate impact and help us shore up the most glaring weakness for the Houston Rockets.
With the 16th pick of the SLAMonline Mock Draft, the Houston Rockets select…
Tyler Zeller from North Carolina.
For anyone worried that our pick of Austin Rivers was too risky, this choice should remind you that the Houston Rockets value substance along with style.
You can not tell me that Tyler Zeller, the ACC Player of the Year, isn’t the quintessential Rockets pick. He dropped 16.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks, with a 55 percent field-goal and 80 percent free-throw percentage in 28 minutes per game and his ability as a fluid offensive player down low is something the Rockets are desperate for. The dude can shoot facing the basket, has an underrated jumper from 18 feet out to draw defenders from the basket, can and will rebound, and is an above average defender.
On top of his impressive numbers, he’s a workhorse who has exceptional speed for a 7-footer. He is perfect for an up-tempo offense and feels comfortable in the half-court game as well. How many centers can you say that about in the NBA right now?
Anyone who needs to know about Zeller should check the quote from Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, courtesy of Chris Dortch:
“The kid is a great player and great kid. He never seems to get tired. He has an amazing physical presence. He puts so much pressure on you the way he runs the floor, and inside, he is just a high percentage shooter. He is a great college player, and I think he would be a really good pro too.”
Now, I know Duke isn’t the hotbed of NBA prospects, but if Coach K believes in a guy from North Carolina, I trust his judgment.
Few teams in the NBA understand how to fit the pieces of the puzzle together or get the most out of a player like the Rockets, and we have a feeling Kevin McHale would be chomping at the bit to get to work with Zeller. McHale and future Rockets teammate Luis Scola are some of the sneakiest offensive players I’ve ever seen and Zeller could learn a lot by snagging a few of their tricks. And I’m sure it wouldn’t be too hard to get a hold of the greatest all-around center of all time, Hakeem Olajuwon. So, we’re guessing he might improve as a player with those three mentoring him.
The only real knock I’ve heard about Zeller is that he needs to get stronger. That’s the easiest intangible to gain, provided you’re willing to do the work. (Kwame Brown, we’re looking at you.) Zeller is the type of player Rockets fans will love and will be a reliable starting center sooner than later. No offense to Yao Ming, who I will forever admire as a player and person and can’t blame at all for his injuries, but reliable and center are two words the Rockets have been waiting to hear for a long time.
The Rockets, in some regards, have overachieved with the teams they have had for the last couple of seasons. The time for being proud of relative achievements is over. It’s time to think big. By grabbing two of the best players in the ACC with Rivers and Zeller, the Houston Rockets are doing just that.
|2012 SLAMonline Mock Draft|
|1||Hornets||Anthony Davis||16||Rockets||Tyler Zeller|
|13||Suns||Perry Jones III||28||Thunder|