After initially being projected to start with Al Jefferson to form a fearsome inside-outside duo, Zeller has been less than impressive, being outplayed by Josh McRoberts for the starting spot and looking lost at times with a variety of different lineups.
Chalk some of it up to Jefferson missing so much time and some of it to Zeller being just a rookie, but the power forward hasn't quite lived up to the expectations he set during summer league and preseason.
Jefferson's presence in the post was thought to free up Zeller or draw defenders away from the paint with the power forward's ability to knock down open shots. He's had room to work—even without Jefferson—and simply can't connect on his attempts.
He seems lost in the offense at times and doesn't move with the flow of the ball. He's generally standing near the perimeter off pick-and-pops, waiting for the ball from Kemba Walker or Ramon Sessions.
When he receives it, he's chucking.
When he's taken the ball to the floor or gotten near the rim, Zeller has struggled to finish at the hoop.
According to NBA.com, Zeller is shooting just 33 percent from the paint area (not restricted) and a dreadful 18 percent from mid-range. Even worse, on jump shots, he's shooting just 15 percent (5-of-33).
Whether it's confidence or just not being familiar with the spacing just yet, Zeller has got to figure things out.
Standing at 7'0" and just 240 pounds, Zeller has the height to compete inside, but he's a bit slimmer than NBA-caliber big men. He hasn't shown the toughness to finish after contact and has struggled to find the ball off the glass.
When he's rotating over inside the paint—without a defender—Zeller's been efficient finishing the play. If there's contact, however, he's fighting but struggling to finish.
In games Jefferson has appeared in, Zeller has notched more than six rebounds twice (nine, twice). He hasn't recorded more than six rebounds in any other game this season.
For the Bobcats to be successful in the future, they'll need more production from their first-round selection—regardless of how many minutes are allotted to him.
Throughout the early portion of the year, the 'Cats haven't been consistent with the minutes they're giving the young Zeller.
Early in the year, he averaged about 18 minutes a night for around seven points and five boards. As his minutes fluctuated, so did his production. In the two games where he grabbed nine rebounds, Zeller played 22 or more minutes and shot under 29 percent in both contests.
Head coach Steve Clifford will have to find a balance to work Zeller into the rotation and search for looks to get him going.
It's undoubtedly been a frustrating start to the season for the rookie, but as he gets more comfortable and the roster rotation stabilizes, so should his minutes and production.
Unless otherwise noted, statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.
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