Continuing what’s been a binge of contract extensions throughout the league Monday, the Hornets have locked up post Cody Zeller on a four-year, $56 million extension, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports.
Teams are aggressively signing players today — Gorgui Dieng, Rudy Gobert and Steven Adams being among others who have agreed to terms on deals — and the Hornets appear to have successfully kept Zeller off the restricted free agent market by doing so.
Zeller will now join Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker in the low-eight-figures-per-year range. Beginning in 2017-18, Charlotte will have five players, along with Nicolas Batum’s team-high five-year, $20 million-per-year deal, seeing eight-figure contracts. And that’s before any sort of outside hires are considered or trades are made.
Zeller’s extension proves as potentially more interesting considering some of Woj’s reporting from Sunday. The longtime NBA scoop artist noted other owners were skeptical how high Michael Jordan would take the Hornets’ payroll, with such potential hesitance contributing to his interest in matching an RFA offer for Zeller. However, Jordan did just open up his checkbook and sign Batum to that megadeal as the salary cap exploded this summer. It’s projected to rise higher next summer, making $14 million per year not exorbitant despite it making Zeller the team’s second-highest-paid player.
The former Indiana center and No. 4 overall pick of the then-Bobcats has not justified that status yet. He’s never had a season in which he’s averaged double digits in points or rebounds. Last season, the 7-footer averaged 8.7 points and 6.2 boards per night. He’s at 10.7 points and five rebounds per game this season.
The Hornets now have the majority of their core signed through 2020. Walker is signed through ’19, so however high the team climbs will be largely determined by the current group.