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Cody Zeller and Charlotte Hornets agree on four-year, $56 million extension

With less than two hours before the extension deadline, Cody Zeller and the Charlotte Hornets agree on a four-year $56 million deal.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

With less than two hours before the deadline to extend him, Cody Zeller and the Charlotte Hornets agreed on a four-year deal worth $56 million, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and The Vertical.

Drafted fourth overall by the Hornets in the 2013 NBA Draft, Zeller was set to become a restricted free agent if he and the Hornets did not agree to an extension by 11:59 PM EST. After rumblings about Zeller and the team being in discussions earlier today, a lot of the hope for a deal to be finalized looked to be lost only a few hours ago.

Well, gladly, all that has changed. The 24-year-old big man from Indiana will return and continue the rest of the season without worries of a future deal, and the Hornets have to be happy as well. The team has made a few moves over the past two seasons indicating their commitment to Zeller, and one can only assume the Hornets envision him as their center of the future. This deal pretty much solidified that.

And, the deal is extremely cost-efficient.

Zeller's deal keeps the team under the tax next season, and the first year's salary is underneath his free-agent cap hold, which means his contract is mostly back-heavy.

This was the right move. Zeller, who played well down the stretch of last season and into the playoffs, has become a vital piece in the Hornets scheme, primarily because of his ability to run the court and his relentless hustle. Last season, Zeller saw his field goal percentages increase from 49.3 to 59.7 based on before and after the All-Star break, a vital stat for any starting center in the NBA.

Also, as evident earlier today, many teams were keeping a close eye on the discussions between the Hornets and Zeller because of what it would mean in this summer's free agency. According to Woj, many teams were going to be aggressive in offer-sheet deals, which, if Zeller had a great season, would mean his salary may have topped $56 million over the next four years. Therefore, signing Zeller with the expectation that he'll continue to progress as the player they want him to be, the Hornets should be thrilled.

While more rookie-scale extensions may be in play before midnight, Zeller became the fifth player today from the 2013 draft to sign an extension. The deal also becomes the third extension in three years that general manager Rich Cho has made with Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the two prior years.

From nearly dead to fully alive in the last few hours, this big time extension rounds out the starting five of the future with no contract worries until the 2018-19 season.