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Tyler Zeller Inks Deal With Spurs Ahead of NBA Restart

Tuesday saw the opening of a week-long stint where NBA teams can sign free agents, convert two-way contracts into full NBA deals and finalize the roster that they plan to take with them to Orlando. It also opens up an opportunity for teams to bring in guys that can replace players like the Lakers’ Avery Bradley and the Wizards’ Davis Bertans, both of whom opted out of playing in the restarted NBA season that begins next month. At least one team has jumped on that ability by making an acquisition, bringing in a big man to try and help their potential playoff hopes.

On Wednesday, the San Antonio Spurs made the move to bring in center Tyler Zeller for the rest of the season, bolstering their frontcourt as they try to battle for a postseason berth. The Spurs go into the restart 12th in the Western Conference standings, four games behind the Grizzlies for the final playoff spot.

Zeller hasn’t played this season, having been out of the league since being cut loose by the Nuggets at the end of training camp. His last NBA action was a total of six games, two with Atlanta and four with Memphis, toward the tail end of the 2018-19 season. San Antonio marks his seventh stop in the league where he’ll actually (at least theoretically) take the floor, having spent time with Cleveland, Boston, Milwaukee, Memphis, Atlanta and Brooklyn over the course of what will be his eighth year in the league. In his career, Zeller has posted averages of seven points and 4.4 rebounds per game while shooting 50.9 percent from the floor. He isn’t a liability at the line as some big men are as he knocks down 76.4 percent at the charity stripe.

The addition of Zeller is a good one for San Antonio, which has dealt with a slew of injury issues this season. Furthering that problem is the fact that the team’s second-leading scorer and leading rebounder LaMarcus Aldridge underwent shoulder surgery in April and is done for the year. Jakob Poeltl has been less than inspiring while Trey Lyles hasn’t been overly impressive either. While Zeller isn’t an offensive threat for the most part, he does bring some grit and defense to the table. That’s something that Gregg Popovich’s team could use as they were 18th in rebounding and 24th in scoring defense (114.9 ppg) when the season was paused back in March.

Zeller clearly isn’t going to be the piece that pushes the Spurs over the top but San Antonio is in a fight to at least earn the ninth spot to have a crack at battling for the final spot in the actual playoff field. With Memphis having Jonas Valanciunas, Portland possibly having Jusuf Nurkic along with Hassan Whiteside, Phoenix with Deandre Ayton and New Orleans with Zion Williamson along with Derrick Favors, having another big man in the rotation is something that could benefit the Spurs. Having a veteran presence certainly can’t help, especially with Aldridge missing in action. Whether he can make a positive impact on the team is something that we’ll have to see but he clearly is a piece that the Spurs can put to use when the season gets moving next month.

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Chris Kubala

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