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Three Bs: Tyler Zeller

NBA: New York Knicks at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Brew Hoop’s entirely subjective and emotionally-driven 2017-18 Milwaukee Bucks season player evaluations. For this series, we wanted to look at each current Buck and ask three questions: what they do that helps (Boon), what they do that hurts (Bane), and whether they ought to be on this team (Belonging).

I had a cool logo featuring a trio of Bs, but got a “cease and desist” notice from a lawyer wearing $200 flip flops. Oh well. Today, we’re looking at Tyler Zeller, the Bucks’ midseason big man acquisition that cost them the services of long time hype man, Rashad Vaughn.

Season Stats (per 36 minutes – rank at position)

  • Points/36: 14.3 (50th among centers)
  • Rebounds/36: 9.9 (57th among centers)
  • Blocks/36: 1.1 (70th among centers)
  • 2PT%: 0.578 (38th among centers)

Zeller’s Boon: Fit Within Team Offense

Some guys can, despite their limitations, just make it work. Tyler Zeller is one of those guys. His complimentary offensive game is a major selling point to any team interested in his services; he can set screens, runs in transition, demonstrates a solid understanding of timing on rolls to the rim, has some savvy working along the baseline and handling a pocket pass, and generally puts his shots up from angles that let the backboard work for him. Zeller knows his limits, and despite his dabbling in corner-threes (not in Milwaukee, but in Brooklyn, 19 of his 26 attempts from deep were in the corners), he has shown himself to only take shots that make sense for him (87.5% of his shots are within 10 feet). He might not generate any highlights himself, but Zeller does a number of things that can facilitate highlight-making plays from others.

Zeller’s Bane: Defensive Aptitude

Zeller is a solid workman on the offensive end, and rebounds about as well as you’d expect a semi-mobile seven-footer would. On defense, however, he’s just sort of there. His (expected) lack of quickness makes him an unimposing obstacle outside of the paint, and his below-average athleticism and length prevent him from rebranding as a rim-protector extraordinaire. He usually seems to know where to be, but even when he gets to his spots, he doesn’t particularly do anything out of the ordinary.

Does Zeller Belong?

As a backup center/spot starter, you can do a lot worse than Tyler Zeller. He is unspectacular, but solid. Given Milwaukee’s recent history of emphasis on the center position, and Zeller’s non-guaranteed contract ($1.9M) for 2018-19, he was widely considered to be a toss-up as to whether he would stick around or not. However, his pre-playoff stretch of genuinely helpful play on offense (without giving away the farm on defense) makes him a near-lock to be retained for next season. Zeller makes good plays and tries to fit in, often brings more to the table than he takes away, and can be a contributor on an über-cheap contract. What’s not to like?