Tyler Zeller: Future NBA All-Star?


When the all-star break came around this season there was little to no discussion about any Boston Celtic having an opportunity to play in the all-star game. This is not surprising at all given that Danny Ainge was in the midst of trading away almost every significant star on the team.

When the season started the only two players that may have been in the discussion as all-star material were Jeff Green and Rajon Rondo who were both traded away, leaving the Celtics with a bunch of young guys, role players, trade throw ins and assets.

Right now, if you had to pick one player on the Celtics as the most likely to be an all-star, the obvious selection may be Isaiah Thomas. Thomas has not only excelled since joining the Celtics, but he is their leading scorer and even won a player of the month award.

Apr 4, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) scores on a lay up in against Toronto Raptors in the second quarter of the Celtics 117-116 overtime win at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Looking just one season into the future and the most likely all-star candidate currently on the Celtics becomes a bit more difficult to figure out. The Celtics are at their best when they are playing team ball and without any real go to top tier playmaker, it is rare that any one player puts up all-star caliber numbers on a consistent basis.

The Celtics are filled with young promising talent and while a lot of attention is put on their core guards, it just may be a big man that finds himself playing in the all-star game.

Tyler Zeller has been arguably the Celtics’ best player this season. Zeller’s player efficiency rating of 19.1 is second on the team to  Thomas’ 21, the biggest difference being that Zeller has maintained his through 60 more games played. While PER may reveal Zeller’s importance to the Celtics, it is much less impressive while compared to the rest of the league.

The number one reason Zeller may be the most likely to get an all-star bid is about what he has the potential to become. Zeller averages a pedestrian 10.2 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game. These number do not look nearly as bad considering it is done in just over 20 minutes per game.

If Zeller’s stats are looked at per 36 minutes then he is putting up 17.3 points and 9.6 rebounds. Given another year to develop and Zeller could easily get on the threshold 20 and 10 per 36 minutes.

Comparing him to the big men that made this year’s eastern all star team and Chris Bosh, Pau Gasol and Al Horford combined to average 19.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per 36. All of a sudden if given enough minutes it is a lot easier to put Zeller in all-star company.

Feb 16, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Eastern Conference forward Chris Bosh (1) of the Miami Heat reacts on the bench during the 2014 NBA All-Star Game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously points and rebounds are not the only things that will factor into getting an all star bid. Fortunately, the best part of Zeller’s game is not directly seen though points or rebounds.

Zeller is shooting an unbelievable 55.1% on the season, good for 6th best in the NBA. If you start to look at Zeller’s company at the top of shooting percentage rankings and his game becomes even more impressive. While most big men with high shooting percentage get everything done by the rim, Zeller is able to stretch the floor with a mid range jumper, while remaining a threat at the rim.

Zeller’s dynamic ability to shoot the ball makes him one of the best scoring threats on the Celtics. The number one thing holding Zeller back from putting up all-star caliber numbers is the unbelievable depth the Celtics have. With the likes of Jonas Jerebko, Kelly Olynyk and Luigi Datome all coming off the bench, Brad Stevens often opts to go to his bigs that can shoot the three in favour of Zeller.

What also can’t be forgotten about Zeller is his age. Zeller has not yet had the opportunity to fully develop in the best player that he can be. While his offensive game truly flourished this season, defense is the area where Zeller has the most room to improve. If Zeller continues to improve then Stevens will have no choice other than to give him the kind of minutes that will allow him to show the world what he is capable of.

Zeller unquestionably has the offensive potential to be an all-star and if he can continue to develop he will make greater and greater contributions on the defensive side of the ball.

Even if Zeller is able to maintain his offensive play and improve on the defensive end, the number one thing that will get him attention in all-star voting is wins. The Celtics have had one of the most unstable seasons in their history but Brad Stevens has proven that with help from the draft and maybe free agency, the Celtics will be relevant title contenders soon enough.

Once the Celtics start winning games, it will be impossible to ignore Zeller as a potential all-star player as everything appears to be in place for him to have a career breakout season in next year’s campaign.

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