|PER||PER Against (Net)|
|Cody Zeller||14.1||14.8 (-0.7)|
Strengths: The grade is more for the improvement and persistence he showed throughout a season that saw him tentative at first but strong to finish. Zeller stayed aggressive all season despite the ups and downs of an NBA rookie campaign. He carved out a role on an NBA playoff team as a bench offensive rebounder. As the season wore on, Zeller was able to fight through contact more effectively, stay on his feet and draw fouls.
Weaknesses: It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Actually…reverse those. Zeller had a first half of the season that careened past disappointing and was heading full speed towards embarrassing. His biggest weakness, which even in his second half surge would rear its head, is his indecisiveness. On offense, there were too many times he caught the ball and had NO idea what his next move should or even would be. This left the offense out of sync and resulted many times in a turnover or late-shot clock pull up jumper from Hendo/Sessions/Neal.
When he did decided to drive, his upper body strength wasn’t able to fight through contact. There were too many times he was tossed around like a rag doll for a player his size.
Defensive awareness was a constant struggle, especially on pick and rolls where he often found himself out of position to make any kind of play. Being out of position led to fouling, which led to less playing time in crucial minutes.
Reasons For Optimism: The obvious reason for optimism is his latter half turnaround in just about EVERY statistical measurement.
Offensive efficiency increased as he moved in closer to the hoop and made his way to the foul line significantly more. He didn’t make up as much ground defensively but his rebounding improved which helped to soothe those wounds. He has an entire offseason and a great shooting coach to help work out the kinks.
Reasons For Pessimism: When we drafted Zeller, we thought we were getting a PF who could run the floor but also stretch the defense with outside shooting in the half court. We got a taste of the first but the second never materialized. His coach in college, Tom Crean, hinted that Zeller’s outside shooting abilities existed even if they weren’t exposed in Indiana’s offensive scheme. Images out of draft workouts and scouting video made notes about his ability to extend the defense with solid shooting from the long elbow. Let’s head to the shot charts to see how it turned out:
That’s a combined 8/56 from the corners. Tough stuff. Here’s what’s tougher. Let’s check out where his shots were coming from throughout the season versus his late season turnaround.
Zeller lost confidence in his shots and realized that if he was going to have any kind of offensive impact he would have to move in closer. While it contributed to an increase in efficiency, it takes away what was supposed to make him a deadly weapon. He’ll have to continue to find a niche on this team to secure playing time as rumors about the Hornets looking at guys like Paul Millsap and Zach Randolph in free agency continue to swirl.