Hornets Cody Zeller contract extension shows savvy
CHARLOTTE, N.C. Rich Cho is one of the few NBA general managers whose rise to the top started with salary-cap expertise. He seems to enjoy reminding us of that every fall.For the third consecutive October, Chos Hornets signed a fourth-year player to an extension. For the third consecutive October, the extension seems like a steep price for a player who hasnt quite shown that kind of value. Cody Zeller averaged 8.7 points and 6.2 rebounds a game last season, but the Hornets gave the center a four-year, $56 million extension that kicks in next season, .MORE: | Zellers extension follows similar deals for Kemba Walker (four Dwight Clark Jersey
years, $48 million) in 2014 and both Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (four years, $52 million) and Jeremy Lamb (three years, $21 million) in 2015. Like Walker and Kidd-Gilchrist, Zeller was a top-10 pick by the Bobcats and specifically owner Michael Jordan. Like Walker and Kidd-Gilchrist, Zeller has not quite lived up to those expectations through his first three seasons but hes shown the potential.Zeller turned 24 earlier this month. Hes one of the fastest 7-footers in the NBA, and he throws himself all over the court, often literally. Four years in, he never developed into the stretch four that the Hornets were hoping for but instead became a dangerous, savvy pick-and-roll player who can use that athleticism as both a decoy and a finisher. The Hornets shifted to a four-out approach, and Zeller functions best when surrounded by three shooters and a lead ballhandler, usually Walker.The slide from power forward, next to Al Jefferson, to center also has improved for his defensive aptitude. Zeller would admit that NFL San Francisco 49Ers Jersey
hes not a shot-blocker. Even while often the most athletic and tallest big man on the court, Zeller prefers to protect the rim with his body over his hands. But hes smart with positioning and a much more natural fit around the paint and in guarding pick-and-roll opponents including through increasingly valuable switching than he is in chasing 3-point shooters.MORE: But mostly, this is about the salary cap. The Hornets dont project to have any cap space next year after re-signing Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams to big contracts this offseason. Without any Bird rights on Roy Hibbert, who is splitting time with Zeller at center this season, they wont be able to keep Hibbert or sign any new center for larger than an exception. That meant their options were to work out a deal with Zeller now or be forced to match an offer sheet on him next summer, when plenty of teams will have cap space.Zeller told Sporting News on Saturday that he didnt really bother with these types of negotiations, that he let his agent handle those decisions. That fits with his easygoing style, and it also makes it easier to understand why he took the deal. Zellers agents at Excel Sports likely were thrilled to secure a deal for a player who has dealt with some injuries and might find himself San Francisco 49Ers Accessories
benched in big moments thanks to Hibberts presence. There was a mutual benefit to work things out easily and none of the ego to get in the way of smart discu sions.Maintaining and building our young core of players has been a key goal for us the last few years, Cho . Were excited that Cody will be part of the Hornets organization for years to come. Cody is a hard worker, a team-first player and a versatile talent that was a large part of our succe s last year. He has improved in each of his three seasons in the NBA. We look forward to a bright future with Cody as a part of the roster that we are continuing to build.MORE: Still, $14 million a year? Zeller was better than advertised last season, but he still has a ways to go before looking worthy of being the surprise No. 4 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. Hell have to better his rim protection and strengthen up those screens. Joe Montana Jersey
Making a jumper from the perimeter once in a while would help he was at under 30 percent on shots from farther than 10 feet last season.But when the Hornets signed Walker to that extension, he followed with the worst season of his career in 2014-15. Then he rewarded them big time in 2015-16, and hes looking even better through three games this season. Consider that Walker is under contract for two more seasons at $12 million a year, and his deal looks like one of the biggest bargains in the NBA.Kidd-Gilchrist hopes to be in a similar situation. He mi sed all but seven games last season with shoulder injuries after signing his extension. Now he hopes to show that he is one of the best defenders and rebounders at the small forward position, while also adding offensive punch. Hes under contract through 2020.MORE: Thats the goal with Zeller. The Hornets went a bit older in free agency, and 30-year-old Williams in particular was a risk because of his health history. Zeller doesnt come Frank Gore Jersey
acro s that way. Hes a 24-year-old athletic 7-footer. Those dont come around every day, and if he stays healthy, those three descriptors alone can keep him useful. This contract bids on him improving beyond that level, but not by much. Its easy to imagine Charlottes books looking pretty nice in two years, the product of savvy moves by a salary-cap veteran.