For those unaware, the 19-year-old forward left high school after his junior season, played an abysmal season in Israel, a better season in Japan's second division this past year and then wowed the NBA scouts that hadn't seen him in two years at the NBA Combine.
Now, after originally being projected in 2011 NBA mock drafts as a potential top-five pick and then falling out of the Draft completely after his disaster of a year in Israel, Tyler seems to be the sexy "project pick" fans are clamoring for their teams to take a chance on late in the first round.
Tyler has the measurables -- his NBA Draft Combine measurements showed him to be a solid 6-foot-10½ and 262 pounds to go with a 7-foot-5 wingspan, 9-foot-2½ standing reach and an outstanding 12-foot vertical reach (meaning if he gets a running start, he can block a shot that's already 12 feet in the air) -- but it takes more than an NBA body to be worthy of a first round pick.
There are still skeletons in the closet stemming from his season in Israel and because of that, Tyler better have some NBA moves and a bit of Ridiculous Upside to go along with them.
Tyler spent this past season playing for the Tokyo Apache in Japan's second division alongside former NBA lottery pick Robert Swift while being coached by Bob Hill, the former head coach of the Seattle SuperSonics, San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers (as well as Blake Griffin's personal trainer leading up the 2009 NBA Draft).
In Japan, Tyler averaged a respectable 9.9 points and 6.4 rebounds in just over 15 minutes per contest over the course of 33 games while dealing with foul trouble and free-throw deficiencies (49-of-108 on the season). Looking at those numbers, which is about all most NBA decision makers can do as only four of Tyler's games are on Synergy and it's highly unlikely many scouts make their way to Tokyo this season, it would seem that Tyler probably doesn't deserve the hype he's currently getting.
Andrew Lowman of Asia Basketball Update, the only person on the internet who followed Tyler this past season (to my knowledge) and therefore my go-to expert on this subject, believes that Tyler was more impressive than those numbers indicate. Lowman notes that over the course of Tyler's last 13 games -- when the team's other big man import, former D-Leaguer Kendall Dartez, left the team -- he averaged 30.4 points and 17.0 rebounds per 40 minutes (while playing just under 17 minutes per game).
"Watching the games, it is clear that Tyler thrived as Hill played him more at the 4 spot alongside Robert Swift at the 5," Lowman wrote of this drastic upturn in production. "Tyler showed his versatility away from the basket, including a drastically improved outside shot. Tyler's turnovers also dropped during this part of the season as he spent less time in the post getting double-teamed."
All of that said, and after watching as much Tyler footage from this past season as has been made available to me (89 possessions over four games on Synergy and all of Lowman's uploads on Youtube), I'm still not sure he's worth a first round pick.
Tyler has shown that he has rudimentary back-to-the-basket moves, a decent 18-foot jumper and the size and athleticism to be a serviceable NBA player from the outset while also seeming to be quite a bit more mature than he's been given credit for in the past. As a bonus, his being coached by Hill should have given him an understanding of the NBA's style of play.
Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to know how to use his size and strength to his advantage, didn't produce on the defensive end and isn't the most disciplined player on the floor. Tyler will be 20 by the time the draft rolls around, making him older than fellow big man prospects Enes Kanter, Bismack Biyombo, Tobias Harris, Lucas Nogueira. All of those guys, aside from Harris, have prior professional experience in similar, if not better, leagues and should be selected before Tyler is off the board.
This isn't all to say he won't be selected in the first round (Daniel Orton was a first round pick last year), I just don't think he's shown enough thus far for an NBA team to hand him a guaranteed contract unless he's able to show he's still improving when working out for NBA teams individually.
Since everyone's gone through and read the 700 words above -- or scrolled to the bottom to get to the good stuff -- here it is:
(Tyler's interview from the NBA Combine courtesy of Draft Express)
(Videos featuring Tyler from the NBA Draft Combine courtesy of raptorstuff on Youtube)
(Tyler's best game -- 24 points, 11 boards -- and last before the earthquake ended his season)
(Tyler scored 12 points and added 10 boards in 17 minutes off the bench this game)
(Highlights from Tyler's junior year of high school courtesy of Ball Is Life)
For more of Tyler's Japanese game footage, be sure to check out Asia Basketball Update's page dedicated to the NBA Draft prospect.
Now knowing everything you ever needed to know about Tyler, where should he be selected?