Hornets NBA

2020-21 Player Preview: Cody Zeller

This is gonna be the eighth season for Cody Zeller with the Charlotte Hornets. As the guys at the Buzz Beat pod said in one of their latest episode it feels like he has been with this team forever. Maybe it’s the hairline. Every player that was involved in the Kemba Walker era is not with the team right now, aside from Zeller. His presence is going to be be important for the young guys, especially in helping them usher in the new era of the culture of this team.

Zeller recently declared that he talked with Gordon Hayward before his agreement with Charlotte and he played a big role in that decision. His presence is felt with this team, even if he is not the most flashy guy.

As we enter into the 2020-21 season the most talked part of his game is three point shooting. Fans expected some development in this area for some time now, Zeller is slowly improving but he still has a long way to go before he is considered a respected long range shooter. During preseason he appeared a little bit more confident with his range and his stroke has looked better as seasons have gone along.

His offensive skillset and ability to play the pick and roll in different scenarios will give a lot of help to a guy like LaMelo Ball, who needs a consistent screen setter in order to be more consistent. Screen setting is still the best part of his game, and this is a great key for Charlotte as they will be a heavy pick and roll team with very few players that can create something without some kind of help.

Zeller will continue to be a good play finisher for Charlotte, especially around the rim. With athleticism vanishing day by day he will need to work on crafty finishes instead of power plays like he used to have back in the days.

Defensively he will keep on with his role as big part of the 1 through 5 switching scheme as he can handle smaller guys relatively well or even play a little drop in some scenarios.

Zeller’s contract is expiring this year, freeing around $15 million of cap space. This is a good news for Charlotte’s payroll because he is not the best fit with this young group, speaking of timeline and overall age. Front office will have different options with him during this season. First of all they can use his contract as part of some trade as the expiring $15 million is a great asset and he is still capable to contribute even on a good team. If the Hornets are not able to find any trade partner interested in him they could probably cut him at the deadline like they did last year with Marvin Williams or MKG in order to free him up if he wants to join a contender. Last scenario is Charlotte keeping Zeller the whole season and giving him a cheaper contract during the next free agency, exactly like they did with Bismack Biyombo this past summer.

Charlotte selected two centers during the second round of the 2020 draft because they know that the 5 position is missing a young and talented piece to develop with this core of players. The aim of the team could be the same during next summer and draft too, retaining a veteran like Zeller that knows the team could be great for the Hornets. That is my personal hope.

Production and impact by Zeller will be the same for this season as it was during last years. Physical condition will be the key for him; Zeller has not played a full season since his rookie campaign. This season has a really stressful schedule for every team and it will probably means that Zeller is going to miss a good amount of games due to rest or injuries. Expect a good amount of minutes played by Biyombo and, I hope, Vernon Carey Jr.

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