The Charlotte Hornets have suffered two consecutive disappointing results as starting center Cody Zeller remains out with a sore shoulder.
In the two games that Cody Zeller has missed this season, the Charlotte Hornets have looked their absolute worst. They dropped an overtime result to the lowly New Orleans Pelicans and lost in blowout fashion to the Memphis Grizzlies. Although the team didn’t necessarily play well enough to win either of those games, if Zeller was in the line-up, he definitely would have helped.
Cody suffered a shoulder injury in the Hornets’ biggest win of the season so far over the Atlanta Hawks. He played a big hand in that victory as he scored a career-high 23 points. Since then, the sore right shoulder has kept Zeller out of the team’s past two matches.
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Without the 24-year old big man to start at the center position, Charlotte has been forced to start Roy Hibbert, who is currently on a minutes restriction with a sore knee. While Spencer Hawes and Roy Hibbert have been effective during the 2016 campaign, Cody is arguably the most important big man on the team. His versatility and athleticism allows the Hornets to create mismatches and spread the floor.
His stats might not jump off the page but there is a reason why Charlotte signed Zeller to a four-year, $56 million extension this season. Many though the Hornets overpaid for the four-year pro but his effect while in the starting line-up and on the court, is a major positive for the team.
The 7’0 center is only averaging 11.7 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game, and 1.2 blocks per game this season. Even though many expected Hibbert to take over the starting role, Cody has made the spot his own with his effort and ability.
With Zeller in the starting line-up, Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum have a great pick-and-roll/two-man game with Cody. His athleticism allows him to attack the rim unlike Roy, who struggles with his lateral movement, quickness, and agility. There aren’t many bigs in the NBA who are capable of the versatility that Zeller possesses.
His production may be debatable but Zeller’s play, value, and importance to the team is clear. Cody is the definite starting center going forward as he is the best and most consistent performing big man.
On the defensive end of the floor, the former Indiana Hoosier has improved his interior defending. It is clear that with Cody on the court, the Hornets are a better team. With Zeller in the line-up, Charlotte has an 8-3 record compared to 0-2 with him out. While on the court, Steve Clifford’s side is outscoring their opponents by an average of 7.5 points compared to -3.2 when he’s off the court. (NBA.com)