They warned us. They told us time and again the type of player they were after.
James Ham told us is in this comment thread:
Joe Maloof told us via twitter:
So when his name is called on Thursday night, and the draft thread is filled with expletives, threats and questions, don't act like you weren't warned. The front office has been very clear on who they intend to draft.
With the 5th pick in the 2012 NBA draft, the Sacramento Kings select...
Tyler Zeller. Yep. I believe it whole heartedly. It started as a joke, at least with me, then I started paying attention.
Even our most trusted source, Sam Amick tried to warn us via his mock draft:
This space was initially reserved for North Carolina center Tyler Zeller, in part because he's the kind of proven, reliable talent that the Kings appear to be homing in on but also because I have reason to believe they like him quite a bit as a possible frontcourt partner to franchise centerpiece DeMarcus Cousins.
There have been a lot of questions and a lot of opinions as to why the "top five" have not been to Sacramento to workout. The two most common arguments have been that they or their agents do not want to appear as if they believe it is they who will fall out of the top four. Hogwash. The other argument is that none of the "top five" wants to play in Sacramento. As believable as that argument is, this is not the case.
The truth is, there is no "top five". There is no magic bright line that separates five players in this draft from all others. Like every other draft there are only players with varying degrees of talent. We create this mystical "top five" because we have the 5th pick in the draft, and because some sources tell us it's true (Chad Ford, draftexpress.com and nbadraft.net etc).
But not everyone believes this. Our own dalt99 doesn't. In his (freakin' awesome) analysis of the players from this draft, two names jump into the top five whom we are not accustomed to seeing: Royce White and Kendall Marshall. Now, these two names do not fit the description of the player that Amick, Joe Maloof and James Ham describe in their quotes above. One person just outside Dalt's "top five" does fit the description however. Coming in at #7....you guessed it--Tyler Zeller.
Not enough proof for you? Well how about this. The last time the Kings drafted a player in the first round without having him in for a workout...2001 and it was Gerald Wallace, eleven long years ago. The difference? We were winning and showed no signs of losing anytime soon. No rookie stood a chance at coming in and playing significant minutes, especially not a wing who couldn't shoot. Peja, Hedo, and Christie had those minutes on lock down. We could afford to take a player who showed promise and allow him to grow in practice and on the bench. Another difference? That was the 25th pick. This is the 5th pick, and the Kings front office needs it to count. They need it to count NOW.
So, the real reason the "top five" have not been here to workout? Maybe they are not invited. Sure that's a stretch. I am sure some have been invited and turned down the offer, but I don't think the Kings care much at this point. I think they have found their man. They had him here, worked him out and liked what they saw. When they were done they called in a few guys from East-Southern Dakota Community State College of the Redwoods University and went through the motions.
You don't have to believe it now--you can believe it on draft day. And when you hear his name called you can come back to this post to get excited about him. You read me right EXCITED. Why? Because Tyler Zeller can play basketball. I didn't know it a few weeks ago, but it's true. Don't believe me? Believe this:
1. Voted to the All-ACC first-team (that's a pretty strong conference)
2. Voted ACC Player of the Year ( in what I have read is a pretty strong conference)
3. Was UNC's second leading scorer (scored less than a point fewer per game than Barnes...a "top five" player)
4. Shot a very solid 55% from the field (more than ten percentage points higher than Barnes...did you know that guy is considered a "top five" talent in this year's draft?)
5. Has been called the fastest big man in the country by coaches (see video below)
6. Grabbed a solid 9.6 rebounds per game (did you know that is almost ten rebounds?)
7. Recorded a 34 inch max vertical at the combine (compare that to Drummond's 33.5 inch max vertical)
This guy is no slouch. He is three things that take away all sex-appeal from a draft pick: 1) a senior 2) white 3) stiff. But don't get it twisted---the boy is nice. Seven-foot big men who can shoot and are mobile do not grow on trees, they walk among them. Throw in the fact that the dude gives a stellar interview at the combine and after his workout with the Kings and you have yourself a big-man draft pick. Enjoy.
And don't act like you weren't warned.
Tyler Zeller 2012 NBA Draft Video (via TheMikeSchmitz)
Tyler Zeller Draft Combine Interview (via DraftExpress)
Kings Pre-Draft Workout Interview: Tyler Zeller 6/12/12 (via kingsflix)
I just had to add this quote from Seth Davis via si.com
Tyler Zeller, 7-foot center, North Carolina: "Beast. I personally have him in the top seven. He's a 13- to 14-year NBA center. He can shoot, he's strong, he runs. Everybody complains they can never find a center. Well, here he is. There's absolutely no scenario where he's not going to succeed."