The majority of my thoughts on Cody Zeller's season were already included in the season review/Charlotte Hornets playoff preview piece "Cody Zeller needs to run like hell in the 2016 NBA Playoffs". This particular "Looking back" entry, however, will strictly focus on The Big Handsome's pick-and-rolls with Nicolas Batum.
As already mentioned in the season review, Zeller has benefited from being moved to the center spot. It has allowed him to relocate more of his shot attempts closer to the basket and given him the open territory to finish there as the rest of the starting lineup can then space the floor from behind the 3-point line.
Said free space can be quite important for Cody Zeller who has special plays designed for him which get the third-year player in motion so he can use his speed against bulkier and slower bigs. When such a play doesn't give him the anticipated advantage, scoring one-on-one can be a challenge for the Indiana Hoosier:
A factor of, perhaps, equal importance for the rim-running Zeller has been the addition of Nicolas Batum. The Frenchman is probably the best creator Cody Zeller has played with and it has reflected on his productivity.
Batum has assisted Cody Zeller on 84 of his field goal makes, while the rest of team has only combined for 98 assists leading to buckets by Zeller. That's not a stat just created by Zeller and Batum clocking a whole lot of minutes together (only Kemba Walker has spent more time on the court with the center than Nic Batum has). The seven-footer's field goal percentage has been 54.2% with Batum on the court. Yet whenever the small forward sits, Zeller has only connected on 46.0% of his attempts, per NBAwowy.
Cody Zeller himself ranks 5th in the league in points per possession (1.22) as the roll man in the pick-and-roll, per stats.nba.com. Given the fact that CZ Top is also 5th in frequency of pick-and-rolls finishing a possession of his, at times Zeller has been quite efficient.
Who's the Hornet most often finding him on those cuts to the basket though? It's Nicolas Batum.
Batum splitting the drop-back coverage with a bounce pass is a beautiful play. It goes back to Zeller being better when in motion and having lots of space. Him and Batum have created a chemistry where the wing draws the attention of the opposing big and drops a pass for Zeller right on time so the big would have a clear runaway ahead of him:
Perhaps, even more fun are the times when Nic Batum floats a pass over the defending big, whether too high on a drop back or blitzing Batum, to Zeller. On some of these, as he will do from time to time, he really tests the vertical leap of Cody Zeller:
These highlights should suggest that Cody Zeller would certainly want Nicolas Batum to sign with the Hornets in free agency...