Tyler Zeller really impressed me on Saturday night. He must have impressed Brad Stevens as well, since he got to play a season high 21 minutes and was on the court for much of the final few minutes.
His 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists helped the Celtics best a team that featured star centers Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah. He did much of his offensive damage in the pick and roll. We've seen him execute that play very effectively with Rajon Rondo, but he's also working well with Evan Turner and Phil Pressey.
He's doing it very efficiently too. Like, really, really efficiently (thus far).
Sure, it’s a small sample size, but Zeller seemingly has created points every time he has touched the ball this season. In fact, Synergy Sports has a metric called score percentage that measures the percent of possessions finished that result in at least one point, and Zeller is at a ridiculous 86.4 percent -- nearly 10 percentage points better than the nearest competitor. That's what happens when you're shooting 85.7 percent from the field (12-of-14), limiting turnovers and getting to the line with regularity.
Some of that efficiency has to do with running the floor. That doesn't always mean a traditional fast break either. He hustles down the court and sets up transition plays very well. Sometimes that simply means being a "rim-runner" as Brad Stevens called him. But other times it means setting up a high screen-and-roll play before the defense has a chance to set up their rotations. That worked beautifully against the Bulls - which explains how a team with no star player on the court was able to run up such a score on what is often considered the best defense in all the land.
I'm not sure if Zeller is worth a spot on your fantasy roster at this point, but he's worth keeping an eye on at least. And he's a perfect cheap center option for single-game fantasy games like FanDuel.
So if a guy is that efficient, maybe shouldn't he be playing more minutes? But of course there's a bit of a big man rotation log-jam.
Sullinger is one of the best players on the team at this point, and deserves minutes. Kelly Olynyk is quietly having a great season as well. Then there's old reliable Brandon Bass, who Stevens was subbing in for defensive possessions in the final moments of the Bulls game - so he clearly trusts his defense more than the other bigs.
Complicating things has been the small-ball lineup that features Jeff Green playing at the power forward spot (with Rondo, Bradley, and Smart giving backcourts fits). That squeezes out some more playing time from the big man rotations. However, with Smart missing a few weeks, we may see Stevens shift more to bigger lineups.
In fact, if he plays like he did against the Bulls, Zeller is going to force his way into the rotation on a more permanent basis. Or at least when there is a matchup that requires a more traditional center instead of the stretch 4's on the roster.
Regardless, every time I see Zeller do something positive, it reminds me that we got him (and a 1st rounder) for virtually nothing (or if you want to look at it another way, he was tacked onto the Pierce/KG trade a year after the fact). He's kind of found-money at this point and I'm happy to have him on the roster.