With the departure of Josh McRoberts the Charlotte Hornets will be relatively inexperienced at the power forward position come the start of the 2014-2015 season.
McRoberts played an important role in the offense last season, often serving as a playmaker and stabilizing presence. He will be difficult to replace, and the current candidates to fill his position likely won’t be able to replicate that playmaking ability.
Rookie Noah Vonleh, and second year player Cody Zeller will be asked to play the bulk of the minutes, unless the front office makes a move to sign a veteran big man through free agency. The most likely scenario will see Zeller begin the season as the Hornets starting power forward.
After an up and down rookie season, how will Zeller react to being thrust into a significantly more important role?
Going into his Freshman year at Indiana, Zeller was heralded as a can’t miss prospect, and a contender for the number one overall pick in the NBA draft, whenever he decided to leave school. Zeller was fantastic at Indiana, though not as dominant as the unreasonable hype projected him to be.
The then Charlotte Bobcats were a fan of Zeller’s game, and potential so they made him the fourth overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. Some fans at the time felt it was an overdraft, but several pundits predicted that Zeller would adjust to the NBA quickly and perhaps even win the rookie of the year.
That adjustment to the NBA was not as quick as many thought it would be. Zeller struggled initially against the stronger quicker defenders this league has to offer. However, as the season progressed he began to develop and improve. Cody Zeller finished the season averaging 6.0 points, and 4.3 rebounds in 17.3 minutes per game, and shot an underwhelming 42.6 percent from the field, but that improvement as the season wore on provides reason for optimism.
It was clear as the season progressed he adjusted to the stronger, quicker opponents, and also got stronger himself. He was scoring in the post, scoring on offensive rebounds, and even defending much better than at the beginning of the season. The Cody Zeller that ended the season was different than the one that began it. This development is going to have to continue at a faster rate if Zeller is going to make an impact in the starting lineup this season.
Cody Zeller always excels running the floor, and rebounding offensively, but he is going to have to continue to improve on his weaker areas. I’m sure the Hornets front office has him on a strength building program to make it harder for opposing players to push him around as they did early last season. As he gets stronger his defense will continue to improve allowing him to play more minutes against better competition.
I would also expect Zeller to have a better jump shot this season. He has very good shooting form, so as he works on it repeatedly his percentages should go up. The ability to stretch the floor is huge, as it provides more room for Professor Al to give his lectures in the post. Losing McRoberts hurts, but if Zeller can step up and seize this opportunity the organization will be better for it. Noah Vonleh is an impressive talent, and the power forward of the future, but he needs time as a role player to develop as Cody did last season. If the Hornets are going to continue their ascent up the Eastern Conference standings both Indiana products are going to have to contribute, but most importantly Zeller. Last season was just the beginning for Zeller, and this young Hornets core.
Swarm and Sting is looking to add writers to the staff! If you are interested, you can apply here