Before the season ever started, new Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said rookie Cody Zeller would have to play a big part for this team to reach its potential.

Hasn’t happened yet. Not close.

The No. 4 overall draft pick in June, Zeller flashed big potential in the Las Vegas summer league. Halfway through his first NBA season, however, he described himself as a role player, averaging five points, 3.8 rebounds and just under 17 minutes per game. He said he’s fine with that on a team trying to reach the playoffs.

This has been nothing like a splash. Clifford said Zeller’s transition is normal these days among first-round picks, because they can’t anticipate how different it will be playing against grown men who are the world’s best basketball players.

“He’s made gains. But he needs to learn how to act like a pro, think like a pro, practice like a pro, play like a pro. That’s not easy to do at 20 or 21 years old,” Clifford said.

“When Cody went to practice at Indiana, probably if he’s at 70 percent concentration, he’s still the only 7-footer there. Those guys can’t keep him from doing things. Here, if he’s not on,” he’ll be dominated.

The 2013 draft class has had little impact in general. Philadelphia 76ers point guard Michael Carter-Williams, the 11th overall pick, was good immediately. The first pick, Anthony Bennett, has been so bad in Cleveland he might be sent to the Development League.

The players chosen just before and after Zeller – Otto Porter in Washington and Alex Len in Phoenix – have done little.

Zeller is playing behind Josh McRoberts at power forward, and for now the gap between them is significant.