Tenth Pick Tournament Round Two: Jared Sullinger vs. Tyler Zeller

Published: June 16, 2012

Round 2 comes to a close with a battle of big men.

Jared Sullinger

(By: James Grayson)

Getting Sullinger through to the second round was quite an easy task. His pros and cons were outlined and we shall rehash on those and see why he’s a better candidate than Tyler Zeller.

Jared Sullinger’s pre-draft workout showed that he isn’t as bad a prospect physically as many had predicted. Sullinger has a wingspan of 7’1’’ and his body fat percentage is a surprising 10.7 (many thought it would be much higher than this). This wingspan is actually longer than that of his 7 foot counterpart Tyler Zeller who’s is 7’0’’.

Physical attributes aside Sullinger should be going through for 3 reasons.

  1. Best post-up game in the draft class

We talked about this before, but I feel like it needs to be refreshed in your minds. While some will try to convince you Zeller has a post-game, the truth is it doesn’t hold up well in comparison to Sullingers.

Monty Williams has talked at length about how the Hornets need a low post option. Chris Kaman will almost certainly depart (as will Landry) leaving a massive void down low. Late in the shot clock a low post option is essential and the Hornets will need one moving forward. This is why Sullinger should be selected, not Tyler Zeller.

2. Perfect Complement to Anthony Davis

With the Hornets selecting first in this year’s draft, they’ll need to put someone next to him either right now, or for the future. Sullinger is such a complement to Davis’ game that it makes a lot of sense to have them the front court of the future for New Orleans. While Davis is athletic and can block shots, Sullinger can handle an offense load that will be demanding. I expect these two guys, if both selected, to balance each other’s games nicely.

3. Immediate Impact Player

One of the greatest criticisms of Jared Sullinger has always been his height. While you would expect that to of hindered his performance at the college level, it didn’t. There’s no great difference in the heights of the college game and that in the NBA. There have been a lot of players who have been labelled as undersized, yet have worked out a niche in the league. If Sullinger is playing power-forward I expect him to be able to make an immediate impact in this league, whether he’s selected by the Hornets or any other organisation.

It would be a great shame to see Jared Sullinger go elsewhere in the NBA. But, I feel like you, our loyal, passionate readers, will make the correct decision by selecting Sullinger over Zeller as the Hornets 10th overall selection in this year’s NBA draft.


Tyler Zeller

(by Mason Ginsberg)

Before I begin, there are three numbers that you all need to know, as well as those
numbers’ significance. They are:

10.7%, 12.77, and 3.81.

What do they represent, you ask? Jared Sullinger’s body fat percentage, agility workout time, and ¾ court sprint time at the NBA draft combine about a week ago. What do they all have in common? Among all projected first round picks, Sullinger ranked last in each category (last out of the entire combine in the two speed-related workouts). He was even second to last among all listed power forwards and centers in the strength workout, beating out only John Henson.

I’m not here to tell you that these draft combine workouts are the only key to projecting how a player’s career will turn out. I am here to tell you, however, that Hornets fans should be very wary of these measurements before clamoring for their team to draft Mr. Sullinger. Those measurements may not lead you to believe it, but Sullinger actually improved his physique significantly before his most recent college basketball season. That sounds nice and all, but if the result was still finishing in the bottom of the rankings in his draft class, it’s clearly not a good sign for his potential.

Mr. Grayson probably argued that Sullinger’s game does not require elite athleticism; however, I beg to differ. The league is getting more athletic in the paint, and Sullinger will undoubtedly have a much more difficult time scoring down low in the NBA than he had in college. He could compensate for his lack of athleticism if he had any sort of size advantage, but at 6’9” in shoes, he won’t stand out over most of the big men who match up with him. This doesn’t even take into account the trouble that his lack of agility and mobility will cause for him on the defensive end; can you see Sullinger successfully defending a pick and roll? Yeah, me neither.

In a nutshell – if a player’s biggest strength in college is also his biggest question mark in regards to whether or not he will be successful in the NBA, then that player is far too risky to draft with a top-10 pick. Jared Sullinger is a prime example of this concern, and as a result, it would be foolish to take that kind of chance when there will be other players available without such concerns.

One of those players is none other than… you guessed it, Tyler Zeller! Ironically enough, Zeller is everything that Sullinger is not, and additionally possesses a post game that could be better than Sullinger’s given his superior height and quickness. I broke down some of Tyler’s advanced stats as well as skill sets in his defeat of Meyers Leonard, but the one thing that needs to be emphasized again is how perfect of a fit he would be with the Hornets, compared to how poorly Sullinger fits with Monty Williams’ coaching philosophy.

Should Sullinger’s game end up allowing him to be a successful low post threat in the NBA, then he could theoretically be a very nice pairing with Anthony Davis in a half court offensive setting. That doesn’t mean, however, that he would be an ideal fit with the Hornets as a team. The second Anthony Davis puts on that Hornets uniform, the team will become one that is even more focused on defense turning into offense. To assume Sullinger will be a significant contributor to the Hornets’ defensive game plan, and then furthermore, to expect him to be able to run with the rest of the team in transition after getting stops, are wildly unrealistic hopes. Switch him out with Zeller – a guy who is a full three inches taller, a good athlete, and a player who runs the floor better than any other big man in this draft class – and suddenly, you have something to get really, really excited about.

Speaking of fit – how has the question of where Sullinger’s minutes will come from not been addressed? Zeller is a legit 7 foot center who can be a solid backup to Okafor, and eventually his successor (not to mention a much cheaper alternative, providing major salary cap benefits). Sullinger is just another power forward, getting in line behind Davis, Ayon, and Smith. Drafting Sullinger and giving him minutes would likely mean playing Smith at center, a position where he struggles to both defend and rebound, instead of his more natural power forward position. In this respect, Zeller clearly makes much more sense as well.

Whether you’re focused on team need, team fit, risk aversion, or just probability of having a respectable NBA career, Tyler Zeller is clearly the better choice for the New Orleans Hornets.


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  1. Pingback: Tenth Pick Tournament Semi-Finals: Perry Jones III vs. Tyler Zeller vs. Trade Up | New Orleans Hornets | Hornets247.com

  2. Pingback: Jared Sullinger – Not a Lottery Pick in the 2012 NBA Draft | Sportige

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