Pelicans Agree to Deal With Center Cody Zeller

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, New Orleans may have interest in bringing back Temple on a cheaper deal.

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4 thoughts on “Pelicans Agree to Deal With Center Cody Zeller

  1. I’m just not sure I believe in the current itteration of the Pels. Even with Zion healthy, I doubt they have what it takes to compete for more than a mid-level playoff spot. Would love to hear why I’m wrong and regain some optimism.

    1. Can’t help you with that just yet…There are some roster moves that clearly need to be made. It may be too late to make them before the season starts at this point.

    2. I don’t think that you’re alone. I find it difficult to lean one way or the other too much. So much truly comes down to stars in this league. Availability is everything, especially on younger teams. Those franchises built with a greater amount of vets can withstand the grind of a regular season better. My gut says that at least one of BI or Zion have to be available for about 70 games. Preferably, the other gives you at least 55-60.

      That said, I’m a believer in we’ll see more internal growth, from the coaching staff executing on a stronger level to several of the young core like Herb, Trey, DD taking another step forward in their development. On the flip side, the center position is currently giving me pause for concern. JV was not integrated properly for too much of last season and he doesn’t appear in the long term plans. But the Pelicans can’t replace him easily because it feels doubtful they’ll land that more preferable mobile, versatile 5 any time soon.

      So yeah, I feel a locked-in playoff seed is more likely than a play-in appearance. Where they ultimately land largely depends upon the health of the core. Feel it’s that way for most teams.

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