The New Orleans Pelicans have come to terms with Cody Zeller on a one-year, $3.1 million contract for the 2023-24 season.
With Jaxson Hayes agreeing to a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers and Willy Hernangomez’s team option not getting picked up, the Pelicans have an urgent need to fill their vacancy at backup center this summer.
Zeller brings 10 seasons of experience to the table, having spent eight with the Charlotte Hornets. Four of those seasons were under the direction of James Borrego, then the Hornets’ head coach and one of the Pelicans’ new coaching hires in recent weeks. His familiarity with Borrego likely played a role in New Orleans targeting him.
Zeller, who didn’t make his first appearance of 2022-23 until Feb. 24 following a lengthy rehab process from a patellar avulsion fracture, averaged 6.5 points and 4.3 rebounds with the Miami Heat across 15 regular season games. He also appeared in 21 playoff games for Erik Spoelstra, who values Zeller’s experience, feel and “mind for the game.”
While the 30-year-old center doesn’t add the desired rim protection and his shooting doesn’t stretch the floor, Zeller could quickly earn some trust from Willie Green thanks to his prior relationship with Borrego, strong screen-setting skills and good rebounding traits. Also, big bodies are always needed when going up against elite centers like Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid.
Zeller’s addition pushes the New Orleans roster total to 13 players, but expect for more changes soon. Jordan Hawkins, the 14th selection in the 2023 NBA draft, remains unsigned. Also, there’s a strong likelihood that the final year of Garrett Temple’s contract will not be guaranteed; however, as Christian Clark recently wrote on Nola.com, New Orleans may have interest in bringing back Temple on a cheaper deal.
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