Immediately after being drafted, rookie center Tyler Zeller has struggled with life in the NBA. Cavalier fans were outraged with Chris Grant’s decision to give up three picks to take Zeller with the 17th overall pick.
After struggling coming off the bench, it took Zeller only four games to get acquainted with the NBA game after taking an elbow to the face from Los Angeles Clippers’ center DeAndre Jordan. Zeller broke a cheekbone and was forced to wear a mask for about a month.
Now he has been forced into the starting lineup after Anderson Varejao going down with a knee injury. His hustle and toughness has been put to question, however his elbow jump shot looks as good as it did at North Carolina.
Zeller has been averaging 8.1 points and 5.7 rebounds. He may not be as impressive as some of the other rookies, but lets compare him to other big men who were drafted in the same class:
Thomas Robinson (4.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG) – Robinson was drafted No. 5 overall and was selected right after Dion Waiters. The idea for Sacramento was to pair him up with DeMarcus Cousins, and the team would have rebounding on lock down. However, that has not happened yet. Robinson has struggled finding his flow in the NBA. Currently he is the first big man off the bench, replacing Jason Thompson.
Meyers Leonard (4.7 PPG, 3.5 RPG) – Selected No. 11 overall, Leonard was the Blazers second first-round pick last year. He is currently going through an ankle injury, but he has played in 29 of the Blazers’ 38 games. With the emergence of former Cavalier J.J. Hickson, Leonard has been stuck on the bench, averaging 17 minutes per game.
John Henson (5.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG) – Milwaukee took him with their No. 14 pick in the draft. This was a player they were hoping to plug in immediately to have an impact after the team dealt their franchise center, Andrew Bogut, to Golden State last season. He has had games where he has shown signs of being a great center, but he hasn’t played at a consistent level.
Andrew Nicholson (7.7 PPG, 3.2 RPG) – Nicholson was drafted two picks after Zeller at No. 19. With the departure of Dwight Howard, the opportunity for him to play opened up. He has been in and out of the starting lineup, battling with Gustavo Ayon. Offensively, he is very versatile but hasn’t been able to be a constant option for the Magic just yet.
Jared Sullinger (6.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG) – Boston took a risk drafting him in the first round after it came out that Sullinger was battling a back injury. He got off to a slow start, but in the last five games he is averaging nearly a double-double with 10.4 points and 9.2 rebounds. It will be interesting to see how he will develop behind Kevin Garnett.
Festus Ezeli (2.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG) – He was the last pick of the first round by the Golden State Warriors. Ezeli has started 31 of 35 games for the surprisingly good Warriors. Although he hasn’t been a big offensive threat, he has been pretty good defensively. Even though he is in the starting lineup, Ezeli is averaging just 16 minutes per game.