NBA: Zeller goes from Mav to Cav
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — North Carolina and Duke meet again.
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ super point guard Kyrie Irving, who played one season for Duke, will be passing to, not defending, North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller when next season rolls around.
The Cavs acquired the 7-foot center Zeller and small forward Kelenna Azubuike in exchange for the No. 24 overall pick and two second-round selections (Nos. 33 and 34). The Mavericks selected Zeller at No. 17 in Thursday night’s NBA draft before shipping his rights to Cleveland.
“It was a kind of awkward getting the Dallas hat,” said Zeller, who after going on stage in Newark, N.J., was kept in a holding area until the trade was approved by the league.
As a senior, Zeller averaged 16.3 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks a game last season for the Tar Heels. He was the fourth North Carolina player selected in the first 17 picks. Zeller played in 117 games in college and his game improved each season. He was voted the ACC’s top player last season.
Zeller needs to improve on the offensive end, but he runs the floor well and has good hands. His younger brother, Cody, was the Big Ten’s freshman of the year at Indiana.
Like Syracuse’s Dion Waiters, the fourth overall selection, Zeller is looking forward to being teammates with Irving even though he did attend Duke, North Carolina’s bitter rival.
“He can pretty much do everything,” said Zeller, who worked out with Irving during the NBA lockout. “It’s beyond Duke-Carolina.”