Tag: Tyler Zeller

Brad Stevens

Brad Stevens hints he will explore taller, more traditional lineups


Last season down the stretch, Boston went small more and more often, using Jae Crowder as a four. Small ball works (see the NBA champs) and the league is trending that way.

But Brad Stevens may have his Celtics working against the grain this season. Or at least he’s going to explore it.

With the additions of Amir Johnson and David Lee to go with Tyler Zeller and Kelly Olynyk, Stevens has options. He told Jay King of MassLive.com that he’s going to experiment a little.

This is the smart move to make — you have to adjust your system to the players, not go Mike D’Antoni and try to jam square pegs into round holes. (He eventually adjusted some with the Lakers, but not until it was too late.)

Plus, going against the grain can often be successful.

Small ball works — if you have the right players to execute it. Golden State went small but thanks to Draymond Green their defense didn’t suffer. Miami’s defense was quite good with Bosh as a center when they were winning. But those two teams have elite talent, and teams that do it and don’t have the talent can be exposed.

Meanwhile, guys like Lee, Jared Sullinger, Zeller, Olynyk, and crew could feast on small lineups. Stevens is smart enough to figure out what works best.

Report: Celtics engaged in contract extension talks with Tyler Zeller, Jared Sullinger

Golden State Warriors v Boston Celtics

Will they take a little less to gain some long-term security?

That has been the contract extension debate for players around the league this summer. For players such as Jonas Valanciunas and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the answer was yes. For Tristan Thompson, the answer is no.

Boston is having those same discussions with two guys, and both may lean toward taking the security, if the number is right — Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger. The sides are talking now and that will ramp up, reports the Boston Globe.

“Obviously, those are two guys that we like moving forward,” Ainge said. “So, yeah, there will be more discussions with both of them, probably during the month of October.”

Zeller, 25, appears the most likely of the three to be in line for an extension. The 7-footer averaged 10.2 points and 5.7 rebounds last season and shot a team-high 54.9 percent from the field. Zeller’s win share of 6.5 — a metric that measures the amount of victories contributed by a player — was the highest on the team.

Sullinger, who averaged 13.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in 58 games last year, is still just 23. But he already has had back and foot surgeries, and his conditioning has been a frequent issue. Sullinger has been training in Houston with former NBA player and coach John Lucas for much of the summer and has shared pictures of his apparently trimmed-down physique through social media. But his return to Boston for preseason training will be most telling.

By the three, they are also discussing Perry Jones, but he has to make the roster first (the Celtics have to cut one guaranteed contract and he could be that guy). Even if he does make it there is no extension in his future.

Zeller can take the security of a deal with the Celtics, or bet on himself and become a restricted free agent next summer when two-thirds of the league has max cap space and will be looking to hand out deals. Zeller averaged 10.2 points a game with a very efficient true shooting percentage of 59.2 percent. He had the second highest PER on the Celtics last season (behind Isaiah Thomas), and Zeller led the Celtics in win shares (6.5). He’s a guy Ainge wants to be part of the Celtics’ future. Of course, the question becomes what’s the number that makes Zeller sign? Big men get paid, would something near Kidd-Gilchrist’s $52 million be enough?

As for Sullinger, he averaged 13.3 points and 7.6 rebounds a game last season but that doesn’t mean everyone is sold on him. He has battled injuries through his career, which may make him inclined to take the security of a long-term deal. But again, it’s all about the number that works for both sides.

If I were a betting man, I’d expect there’s a better than 50/50 chance a Zeller deal gets done. Not so sure about Sullinger.

Report: Celtics likely to give Tyler Zeller a contract extension before October 31 deadline

Tyler Zeller

It pays to be a big man in the NBA. Teams are always hungry for size, and if you can harness those physical tools into actual basketball skills, it will pay off big-time when it comes time to negotiate a new contract. A year ago, the idea of Tyler Zeller being a priority for a team to sign to a contract extension seemed absurd. But after a solid first year with the Celtics, it’s becoming more likely that they’ll want to lock him up long-term, or else someone else will.

From CSNNE.com’s A. Sherrod Blakely:

Last month we saw how the Boston Celtics rewarded Jae Crowder for making the most of his opportunity to play significant minutes after being acquired from Dallas in December. They signed the 6-foot-6 Crowder to a five-year, $35 million deal.

Will Tyler Zeller be next?

The 7-foot center is among three Celtics (Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones III) from the 2012 draft class who are in line for a potential extension this fall. But of the trio, Zeller is the most likely to get a deal done prior to the October 31 deadline.

In his first two seasons with the Cavaliers, Zeller seemed on track to be little more than a permanent backup. But he made a jump last season after being traded to the Celtics. He’s mobile for a seven-footer, able to run the floor well and finish around the basket, which proved to be a perfect fit for the offense Brad Stevens ran in Boston.

With the salary cap going up next summer, teams will be motivated to lock in young players to long-term deals now at what will be below market value once the jump takes place. Don’t be surprised if Zeller gets eight figures annually in a new deal. The idea of a four-year, $40 million extension for him seems crazy now, but if he proves to be a long-term starting-caliber center, that looks a lot more reasonable under a cap that’s expected to be closer to $89 million in 2016, when the extension would kick in.

Phil Jackson questions whether Duke players live up to expectations in NBA

2015 NBA Draft

The Knicks drafted Kristaps Porzingis with the No. 4 pick, and the early returns are positive.

But they also surely considered a couple players from Duke – Jahlil Okafor (who went No. 3 to the 76ers) and Justise Winslow (No. 10 to the Heat).

Would New York have chosen either? Knicks president Phil Jackson implies he had concerns simply because of their college team.

Jackson on Okafor, via Charlie Rosen of ESPN:

Jackson thinks he might not be aggressive enough. “Also, if you look at the guys who came to the NBA from Duke, aside from Grant Hill, which ones lived up to expectations?”

Let’s take a comprehensive look rather than cherry-picking players who could support either side of the argument.

We obviously don’t know yet whether Okafor, Winslow and Tyus Jones (No. 24 this year) will live up to expectations. Jabari Parker (No. 2 in 2014) looked pretty good last year, but he missed most of the season due to injury. It’s far too soon to make any judgments on him.

Otherwise, here are all Duke players drafted in the previous 15 years:

Lived up to expectations

  • Rodney Hood (No. 23 in 2014)
  • Mason Plumlee (No. 22 in 2013)
  • Ryan Kelly (No. 48 in 2013)
  • Miles Plumlee (No. 26 in 2012)
  • Kyrie Irving (No. 1 in 2011)
  • Kyle Singler (No. 33 in 2011)
  • Josh McRoberts (No. 37 in 2007)
  • J.J. Redick (No. 11 in 2006)
  • Luol Deng (No. 7 in 2004)
  • Chris Duhon (No. 38 in 2004)
  • Carlos Boozer (No. 34 in 2002)
  • Shane Battier (No. 6 in 2001)

Didn’t live up to expectations

  • Austin Rivers (No. 10 in 2012)
  • Nolan Smith (No. 21 in 2011)
  • Gerald Henderson (No. 12 in 2009)
  • Shelden Williams (No. 5 in 2006)
  • Daniel Ewing (No. 32 in 2005)
  • Dahntay Jones (No. 20 in 2003)
  • Mike Dunleavy (No. 3 in 2002)
  • Jay Williams (No. 2 in 2002)
  • Chris Carrawell (No. 41 in 2000)

That’s 12-of-21 – a 57 percent hit rate.

By comparison, here are players drafted from North Carolina in the same span:

Lived up to expectations

  • Harrison Barnes (No. 7 in 2012)
  • John Henson (No. 14 in 2012)
  • Tyler Zeller (No. 17 in 2012)
  • Ed Davis (No. 13 in 2010)
  • Tyler Hansbrough (No. 13 in 2009)
  • Ty Lawson (No. 18 in 2009)
  • Wayne Ellington (No. 28 in 2009)
  • Danny Green (No. 46 in 2009)
  • Brandan Wright (No. 8 in 2007)
  • Brendan Haywood (No. 20 in 2001)

Didn’t live up to expectations

  • Reggie Bullock (No. 25 in 2013)
  • Kendall Marshall (No. 13 in 2012)
  • Reyshawn Terry (No. 44 in 2007)
  • David Noel (No. 39 in 2006)
  • Marvin Williams (No. 2 in 2005)
  • Raymond Felton (No. 5 in 2005)
  • Sean May (No. 13 in 2005)
  • Rashad McCants (No. 14 in 2005)
  • Joseph Forte (No. 21 in 2001)

The Tar Heels are 10-for-19 – 53 percent.

Nobody would reasonably shy from drafting players from North Carolina, and they’ve fared worse than Duke players. Making snap judgments about Duke players just because they went to Duke is foolish.

Jackson is talking about a different time, when aside from Hill, Duke had a long run of first-round picks failing to meet expectations:

  • Roshown McLeod (No. 20 in 1998)
  • Cherokee Parks (No. 12 in 1995)
  • Bobby Hurley (No. 7 in 1993)
  • Christian Laettner (No. 3 in 1992)
  • Alaa Abdelnaby (No. 25 in 1990)
  • Danny Ferry (No. 2 in 1989)

Then, it was fair to question whether Mike Krzyzewski’s coaching yielded good college players who didn’t translate to the pros. But there have been more than enough counterexamples in the years since to dismiss that theory as bunk or outdated.

Count this as another example of Jackson sounding like someone who shouldn’t run an NBA team in 2015.

To be fair, the Knicks had a decent offseason, at least once you acknowledge they couldn’t land a star (which was kind of supposed to be Jackson’s job, right?).

The questions Knicks fans must ask themselves: Do you trust Jackson because of the moves he has made or worry about the next move because of what he has said?

How the Warriors and Cavaliers built championship contenders so quickly

Golden State Warriors v Cleveland Cavaliers

Kyrie Irving reportedly wanted Harrison Barnes. So did many Cleveland fans. The Cavaliers leaked they did, too.

The Warriors indicated they wanted Dion Waiters.

The Cavaliers drafted Waiters – who shut down workouts (before visiting Cleveland) and then shot up draft boards – No. 4 in the 2012 NBA draft. They either played into Golden State’s gamesmanship or poached the player the Warriors really wanted. Golden State took Barnes No. 7.

Three years later, the Warriors and Cavaliers are no longer sparring in the lottery. They meet in the NBA Finals – hoping to become the first team in seven years to jump from outside the playoffs to a championship so quickly.

Cleveland had the worst-ever four years preceding a conference-finals appearance, let alone the worst lead-up to a conference – or even NBA – title. Before its turnaround that begun in 2012, Golden State made the playoffs just once in 18 years.

How did these downtrodden franchises change their fortunes?

The Warriors have made the most of their opportunities. The Cavaliers have made the most most opportunities.

For Cleveland, everything starts with LeBron James.

When the Cavaliers drafted him in 2003, he immediately set them on a track toward title contention. They never reached the pinnacle, and those hopes exploded in flames of burning jerseys when he left for the Heat in 2010.

But Cleveland immediately began preparing to maximize its next championship window – whenever that might be.

They signed-and-traded LeBron for two first-round picks, the right to swap another first-rounder with Miami and two second-rounders. They accepted Baron Davis’ burdensome contract in exchange for the Clippers’ unprotected first-round pick. They dealt J.J. Hickson to the Kings for Omri Casspi and another first-round pick. They traded Ramon Sessions to the Lakers for a first-rounder and the right to swap future fist-rounders. They helped the Grizzles escape the luxury tax by taking Marreese Speights – and yet another first-round pick as bounty.

Some of those picks have been squandered. The Sacramento pick (which still has not been conveyed) went to Chicago for Luol Deng, who didn’t help Cleveland get anywhere before bolting in free agency.

But others have proven instrumental. The Clippers’ pick won the lottery, sending Kyrie Irving to the Cavaliers. They also had their own pick after a poor season, which resulted in Tristan Thompson.

Infamously, that wasn’t the end of the Cavs’ lottery luck. They won again in 2013 (Anthony Bennett) and 2014 (Andrew Wiggins). In their lone non-lucky lottery since LeBron left, they picked up Waiters.

Essentially, the idea was accumulating assets while the team was bad and then cashing in on them when it became good. The lottery helped immensely, but the underlying plan was sound.

Paying Davis and Speights didn’t bother Cleveland at the time. Spending that money on better players wouldn’t have been enough to make the Cavaliers good, anyway.

Now, every roster upgrade matters, and the Cavaliers have shifted gears.

They sent away Tyler Zeller (acquired with accumulated draft picks in the first place) and another first-rounder to dump Jarrett Jack, clearing the cap space to sign LeBron. They dealt Wiggins, Bennett and a first-rounder acquired in the LeBron sign-and-trade to get Kevin Love. They used Waiters to acquire J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. That deal came with a Thunder first-round pick, which Cleveland packaged with that Memphis first-rounder to get Timofey Mozgov.

The Cavaliers have built a complete team very quickly because they and luck positioned them so strongly entering last summer. I’m sure LeBron wanted to return home, but I doubt he would have signed with Cleveland if its collection of assets weren’t so impressive.

The Cavaliers made plenty of missteps along the way, but they and lottery luck afforded themselves that imperfection.

The Warriors, on the other hand, didn’t have such room for error. They needed to – and did – operate much more shrewdly.

Golden State also relied on fortune – not of lottery luck, but health.

The Warriors traded Monta Ellis for an injured Andrew Bogut in 2012 – a highly controversial deal at the time – and Bogut didn’t play the rest of that season. Curry was also done for the year due to an ankle injury.

Golden State was essentially building around two injured players.

And it couldn’t have worked any better.

Bogut and Curry got healthy, but not before the Warriors tanked their way into keeping their top-seven protected 2012 first-rounder and Curry agreed to a four-year, $44 million contract extension.

Barnes became that pick, and Curry’s bargain extension gave Golden State a ton of flexibility to upgrade the rest of the roster. So did the team’s best 2012 draft pick – second-rounder Draymond Green, who like most second-rounders, signed for near the minimum.

The Warriors used some of that flexibility (necessarily furthered by a salary dump on the Jazz) to sign Andre Iguodala in 2013 and add Shaun Livingston last year.

They also took a huge risk – firing Mark Jackson, who’d helped the team escape its decades-long rut, and hiring first-time coach Steve Kerr. Of course, it has worked beautifully. Green, Barnes and Klay Thompson have blossomed this season, and the team is clicking on both ends of the court.

This is the culmination of Golden State’s plan, but the road gets more difficult from here.

Green becomes a restricted free agent this summer, and he’ll surely command a max contract. That would take the Warriors into the luxury tax, so they’ll have to pay big to keep this group together.

Likewise, the Cavaliers are running out of future assets to trade in for immediate help. They also have the urgent task of keeping Love, who can become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Both franchises face difficult decisions in the years ahead.

But title windows are difficult to crack ajar, let alone prop open for extend periods of time.

Golden State and Cleveland have done both. Whatever happens in the Finals, these teams should remain in contention for the next few years.

And to think, not long ago, they were trying to misdirect each other about selecting Dion Waiters high in the draft.