Nov 15, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Charlotte Bobcats center Cody Zeller (40) drives on Cleveland Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao (17) during the third quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. The Bobcats beat the Cavaliers 86-80. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Cody Zeller Isn't Playing Like A Lottery Pick

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Cody Zeller is averaging 4.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and shooting 33 percent from the field in 19 games with the Charlotte Bobcats. Of the 34 players who qualify, Zeller is 24thin Player Efficiency Rating for rookies who’ve played at least 10 games this season.  By the numbers, Zeller hasn’t resembled anything close to a lottery pick this season:

-9.7 – Zeller’s net plus/minus rating per 100 possessions

The Bobcats are 4.5 points worse offensively with Zeller on the floor and allow 5.2 more points with him on the floor.  Zeller’s defensive struggles were expected. He wasn’t a good defender in college and lacks the strength and lateral quickness to be a solid positional defender.

Zeller’s offensive woes have been the story of his season. Zeller has yet to show an above-average offensive skill and often looks startled offensively. Zeller is typically paired with Al Jefferson, Bismack Biyombo, and Jeff Adrien—players who like to occupy the paint.  With them on the floor, Zeller is expected to take jump shots to provide spacing, which he doesn’t appear comfortable with.

A 7.3 Player Efficiency Rating isn’t completely telling of how poor Zeller’s play has been so far. However, it’s disappointing given where the Bobcats selected him. Steve Clifford is very flexible with lineup changes. Zeller’s play hasn’t glued him to the bench, but if it was better he might have a great chance at taking over at starting power forward for Josh McRoberts.  So far, there’s no reason to think he will.

0 – The amount of Zeller’s attempted 3-point field goals

Rod Higgins and Rich Cho endorsed Zeller as a stretch forward—a forward who spaces defenses with a jump shot out to 3-point range. It’s a different role than what Zeller was in his two collegiate years at Indiana. Higgins and Cho were apparently encouraged by Zeller’s shooting display in a pre-draft workout with the team. Zeller showed what appeared to be an improved jump shot and observers noted he was effortlessly hitting from the 3-point line.

So far Zeller hasn’t attempted a 3-point shot. In fact, Kelly Olynyk, selected nine spots after Zeller, has attempted 22 3-point shots. Olynyk has only converted 18 percent of his 3’s, but to this point looks more like a stretch forward than Zeller has.

22.5 – Zeller’s estimated field goal percentage on jump shots

The form on Zeller’s jump shot doesn’t look bad, though he doesn’t have a quick release. Besides lacking comfort on the perimeter, it seems Zeller doesn’t have in-game confidence in his shot either. Defenses are comfortable allowing the space for Zeller to shoot. The Bobcats are one of the worst jump shooting teams in the league, so it only makes sense to concede a jump shot to one of the team’s weakest perimeter shooters.

Zeller is also fairly limited in the ways he can get his jump shot. He lacks a competent handle, explosion, and a quick first step to blow by defenders. He hasn’t shown much of a face-up game either. Zeller is mostly getting jump shots off drive and kick, or pick and roll situations.

39.3 – Zeller’s True Scoring Percentage

True Scoring Percentage can tell two stories—how efficient a player’s scoring is and how difficult their offense is. Zeller isn’t getting many easy baskets; the most efficient offense he has is running the floor and finishing on the break. The problem is that the Bobcats are 26th in fastbreak points and pace. Running isn’t a big part of their offense and in turn it takes away a key part of Zeller’s game. Zeller is billed as an athletic player, but the Bobcats aren’t utilizing any of his athleticism so far.

Zeller’s efficiency was also boosted from the free throw line. In college, Zeller attempted just under 11 free throws per 40 minutes. Right now he’s averaging 3.2 free throw attempts per 36 minutes. Without a go-to scoring role, Zeller is lost in the Bobcats offensive plan and doesn’t have much room to score efficiently.

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