Cody Zeller gave the Hornets solid minutes when he was on the floor, the problem is that Zeller wasn’t able to be on the floor much. Zeller was never a big minutes guy but did produce in the 25 minutes a game that he averaged this past year. He gave the Hornets 10 points, seven rebounds and two assists each game while shooting 55% from the field. Zeller’s not Joel Embiid but those are solid numbers from your starting center. However, Zeller’s availability this year, as it has always been, was the main problem. He only played 47 games this year which to be fair, is more than the 33 games that he played last year. But that type of durability just isn’t going to cut it from your starting center.
Zeller was positive on both ends of the floor this year with a +.2 offensive box plus/minus and a +1.7 defensive box plus/minus. He’s a very high IQ player which leads him to being in the right place at the right time on both ends of the court. His screen-setting over the years has been huge as Kemba Walker has continued to improved his three point shooting. In addition, he shot a career-high 69% from 0-3 feet so he was a reliable presence down low finishing.
He has made the attempt to expand his game and add the three point shot and took a career-high 22 attempts this year. Zeller has always been a pretty solid free throw shooter for a center and this year was no different as he upped his percentage to a career-high 78.7%. This all culminated into a career-high 61.1% true-shooting. Because of this, he was able to have a great impact on the offensive end as the Hornets were 3.3 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the floor. On defense, Zeller isn’t really a shot-blocking presence but there is something to be said about a player who knows where to be on defense. His high intelligence on that end allows him to affect some plays and the Hornets were .9 points per 100 possessions better on defense when he was on the floor.
I think all Hornet fans would love it if Zeller was more athletic to defend shots better or could shoot 35% from three but he’s a solid player that doesn’t hurt you on either end. That’s all you can ask from a role player. The problem is just Zeller’s availability. Out of the past three seasons, Cody has only been able to play a little more than 58% of games. That is an insane number. At this point, I think we all have to admit that Cody is an injury-prone player. Because of that, his role should be reduced to a backup but because of a Hornets team devoid of talent, he has to be the starter.
The Hornets have almost $30 million due to Zeller over the next two seasons and he’s part of the reason that the Hornets are in cap hell. I don’t expect and wouldn’t want any pick attached to him to get off the deal. With Kemba possibly leaving, the Hornets need to get as many pick assets as they can instead of dealing them away. They should just ride out the contract.
Zeller’s a good guy and it’s really unfortunate how hurt he often gets. I’m hoping that he’ll be healthy these next couple of years but the Hornets should probably start looking for their next starting center (Jaxson Hayes maybe?). Until then, I’ll enjoy the dunks that Cody gives us every now and then:
Final Grade: C+. A positive when he is on the court but the problem is that he just often is not.