Cody Zeller wanted to stay with the franchise, and the Charlotte Hornets wanted to keep their 24-year-old forward around, so the negotiations heading into the midnight deadline carried little drama. Zeller agreed to a four-year contract worth approximately $56 million with the Hornets, as reported by Yahoo! Sports.
Though he is personally worth more than a billion dollars, Michael Jordan is viewed by a couple of NBA executives as someone that is cheap when it comes to building his roster. Signing Cody Zeller to a contract this big should help Jordan shed that label a bit. Even with the raised salary cap space, this is still a huge amount of money for someone that has not really been established as one of the best players in the league.
Michael Jordan also spent a good amount of money over the summer to keep some of his core players. Budding swing man Nicolas Batum was handed a contract worth approximately $120 million, while veteran forward Marvin Williams was paid approximately $54 million to continue his job as a valuable leader and role player.
The Charlotte Hornets are still under the luxury tax, so it will be interesting to see if Michael Jordan is willing to cross that line some day.
When the Charlotte Hornets signed Roy Hibbert away from the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency, the belief was that they were giving themselves some leverage in negotiations with some of their front court players. Hibbert played pretty solidly to start the season, but he is currently being bothered by knee issues. That might have helped Cody Zeller seal the deal because he can play forward and center.
The deal could end up being quite the steal for the Charlotte Hornets, especially if Cody Zeller continues to improve. Earlier on Monday, the Oklahoma City Thunder locked up Steven Adams to a contract worth more than $100 million. The Utah Jazz did the same thing with Rudy Gobert. While Adams and Gobert are better than Zeller right now, he is also making almost half as much money as they are.
Receiving a huge contract does not ensure that Cody Zeller is going to be handed a spot in the rotation. Frank Kaminsky and Spencer Hawes are also on the roster. Both of those guys could also take over the starting center position if Roy Hibbert struggles after coming back from his knee injury. Zeller needs to use the contract as motivation to prove to Charlotte Hornets fans that he deserves to be paid that much money.
To make himself as valuable as possible to the Charlotte Hornets, Cody Zeller needs to keep doing all of the little things that he does well. The former Indiana Hoosiers star is excellent at setting screens, so he needs to work on his two man game with guard Kemba Walker. Zeller has a bit of a mid-range game, so he can also pop out instead of always rolling to the basket once Walker gets past his defender.
The departure of Al Jefferson should make things a bit easier for Cody Zeller. The veteran center decided to walk away in free agency to sign with the Indiana Pacers. His absence clears up minutes and shot opportunities for Zeller and the other big men on the Charlotte Hornets roster. It also helps Zeller tremendously that Hornets head coach Steve Clifford and assistant head coach Patrick Ewing favor having big men being involved on offense and defense.
Cody Zeller has now been paid, so Charlotte Hornets fans and the mainstream media will be expecting more from the seven-foot forward. It is up to him to make that happen.
[Featured Image by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images]