Zeller heading to NBA Playoffs in rookie year

Former Indiana standout Cody Zeller and the Charlotte Bobcats will play the Miami Heat in the first round.

Cody Zeller is heading to the NBA Playoffs as a rookie. Who would have predicted that?

Zeller and the Charlotte Bobcats are the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference, and they will play the two-time defending champion Miami Heat beginning on Sunday afternoon.

It has been an up-and-down first season for the former Indiana big man, but Zeller is part of the postseason already, something most rookies cannot say. Plus, Zeller has had the luxury of learning from guys like Al Jefferson and assistant coach Patrick Ewing, which will undoubtedly go a long way in helping him develop as a big man.

In the regular season, Zeller averaged 6.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 17.3 minutes per game off the bench. He shot 42.6 percent from the field, did not attempt a 3-pointer, and made 73 percent of his shots from the foul line.

Another important number: Zeller played in all 82 games for the Bobcats, a very impressive feat for a rookie, or any player for that matter.

Zeller scored in double figures 14 times during the regular season, including two times in the month of April. One of those games -- a 96-94 win over Cleveland -- was a double-double. Zeller posted 12 points and 11 rebounds on 4-of-6 shooting, while adding four assists. Zeller has scored fewer than eight points only twice in April.

Zeller's best game of the season likely came against the Washington Wizards at the end of March. In that game, Zeller had 15 points and eight boards in only 20 minutes, going 4-of-4 from the field. The Bobcats won that game over the playoff-bound Wizards.

There's no doubt Zeller has learned a lot from underappreciated big man Jefferson, who averaged 21.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game during the regular season.

It should be fun to watch an ex-Hoosier take part in the playoffs, even if his team is likely to get bounced in four or five games.

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