Early Results from Cody Zeller's Rookie Season Are Frustrating

Raj Prashad@RajPrashadCorrespondent INovember 25, 2013

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 06:  Cody Zeller #40 of the Charlotte Bobcats during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on November 6, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

It hasn't been a stout start to Cody Zeller's early NBA career with the Charlotte Bobcats.

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.


Struggling Shot

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 workeven without Jeffersonand 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.


Smaller Frame

Nov 18, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls power forward Taj Gibson (22) blocks Charlotte Bobcats center Cody Zeller (40) during the second half of their game at the United Center. The Bulls won 86-81. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

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 paintwithout a defenderZeller'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 selectionregardless of how many minutes are allotted to him.


Consistent Minutes

Nov 2, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis (23) and Charlotte Bobcats power forward Cody Zeller (40) fight for position under the basket during the first half of a game at New Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Deric
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

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.