Although it was not one of the blockbuster variety, the three-team trade that took place on Thursday between the Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, and Cleveland Cavaliers is still worth noting. Looking at it strictly from a Celtics perspective, the team received Brooklyn's Marcus Thornton, Cleveland's Tyler Zeller , and a protected 2016 first-round pick from the Cavaliers.
Out of the three pieces involved in the deal. Zeller seemed the most appealing to me. A member of the 2013 NBA All-Rookie Second Team and the 2012 ACC Player of the Year, he averaged 16.3 points per game in correlation with 9.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game in 2011-12 his best year during his time at Chapel Hill with the North Carolina Tar Heels. Last season, his first one in the pro ranks, he averaged 7.9 points which is certainly respectable but not eye-popping. In looking over his statistics, what did catch my attention was his 5.7 rebounds per game last year in 26.4 minutes of play.
This year, the rebounding numbers were down a bit (four per game) however so too were his minutes (15.) He may not be the flashiest of big men (see Dirk Nowitzki), but he fills a void that the Celtics have struggled to fill ever since the departure of Kevin Garnett, He is a rebounding big man who can protect the rim and clog up the paint with his seven-foot frame.
Boston ranked 18th in the league the 2013-14 campaign with 42.5 rebounds per contest, and their leading rebounder was ex-Buckeye Jared Sullinger who tallied 8.1 per game. The next closest? Kris Humphries who averaged 5.9 per contest. As a team , the Celtics totaled 4.18 blocks per game. Zeller himself almost notched the same amount as mentioned above.
Boston has struggled to find a consistent big man who is a paint presence and can get into the dirty areas, someone who can emulate Garnett's style of play (although it is virtually impossible to match his intensity.) Whether Zeller is a viable long-term option for Boston's future or a trade piece to solidify the future itself, he has the potential to be valuable in the Celtics' quest for a championship. He may not be a superstar, but he is a player who can get the job done when needed, and whether that is being trade bait or performing on the court remains to be seen.