On February 5th, the Bucks traded center Tyler Zeller for a future second round draft pick. At the time of the trade many Bucks fans didn’t know exactly how to think. Some felt it was an overpay for a center that didn’t help the mess that was the Bucks center position, while some felt the addition to the big man rotation was necessary for the Bucks big man rotation. Zellers play through the final half of the year just about split those expectations in half. At his best he was the best center for the Bucks, but at his worst was nearly unplayable during stretches during the playoffs.
For most of his stint during the regular season, Zeller provided quality minutes during which he didn’t actively hurt the Bucks in any department (more than can be said about Henson and Thon). On defense Zeller was very sound positionally and rarely was out of position on defense. While his subpar athleticism capped his rim protecting abilities, his defensive IQ kept him in position to contest shots at the rim. On offense Zeller didn’t do much to make a positive impact on the offensive end but did just enough to keep from being a negative. Additionally, his finishing around the rim was adequate to finish shots that other playmakers made for him. While he never created any offense for himself or teammates, he kept the flow of the offense going by never letting the ball stick to his hands for too long.
While there was not much expectation on Zeller to dramatically change the center situation in Milwaukee, the second round pick that was used to acquire Zeller would suggest the Bucks expected solid play from the backup Center. While one could argue he held up his end of the bargain during the regular season, the playoff series against the Celtics went much differently. During the 7-game series with the Celtics, Zeller accrued a net rating of -23, far worse than even the second worst net rating of a Buck of -6.5 held by Jason Terry. While Thon impacted the game through his shot blocking, perimeter shooting and hustle plays, Tyler Zeller did nothing but take up space and rely on others to make plays. Zeller was unquestionably the Bucks worst player during their first round playoff exit and left a sour taste in Bucks fans mouths entering the post-season
Zeller entered mid-way through the year with middling expectations that appeared to be met until his dismal postseason performance. Entering his final year of a non-guaranteed deal with the Bucks, Zeller’s future with Milwaukee appears to be up in the air. If Zeller can find his mid-season form again, there is little doubt that he can play positive basketball in an NBA rotation. But, should he continue to struggle as he did in the playoffs, it would be tough to see Zeller with this team going forward.