The GSoM community is ranking the Golden State Warriors’ players, eliminating one player per poll "Survivor" style until we've decided who is the most valuable to the Warriors in 2017 and beyond.
We're referring to the players as "assets." As such, voters are reminded to consider age, salary, injuries, production, potential and overall value to the team (as either a player or trade piece) when making their selections. Basically, you're part of the front office, and it's time to cut the next player.
The Warriors entered the off-season with a Bogut-sized hole in the middle of their starting roster. Who would take over the starting center position? The rumor mill went wild with possibilities until fans were blessed with the news that Zaza Pachulia, consensus fan favorite, would be landing in Oakland. To the fans (and front office’s) pleasure, Pachulia had agreed to a dirt-cheap, under-market contract to come “chase his ring.” Rumor has it Pachulia could have cashed in with the Washington Wizards, but chose the Warriors for his chance at a title.
What were you getting with Zaza Pachulia? For starters, you get the brand:
You get the viral star who almost broke the All-Star voting process.
You also get the NBA Veteran that makes a lasting impression everywhere he goes:
You also have a fantastic Twitter follow (I’d urge everyone to follow him for his avatar alone).
Though the idea of Zaza on a team of personalities sounded like an amazing fit, could his skill-set live up to the challenge? He was filling the shoes of a fantastic defensive anchor in Andrew Bogut who solidified the Golden State front court for the last four years. Pachulia, never known for his rim protection, ushered in a wave of fear and concern that this team wouldn’t be able to stop opponents. And though early season performances might have supported that, Pachulia has slowly evolved into an asset in his short stints on the floor with the team (only playing 17 minutes per contest so far this season).
What has been the key? Pachulia understands the offense. His value has never been on the low block, a skill-set the Warriors have not featured in years. His passing and his vision have been an incredible value for the starters in creating floor spacing. He has suitably replaced Andrew Bogut’s screening ability and chipped in just over two assists per contest as well. He has contributed a mature presence and developed chemistry with others on the team, mostly as other players respect Pachulia as a tough guy and enforcer not willing to back down from a challenge.
His production has been average, but when surrounded by four All-Stars, your contributions are like playing with house money. He is scoring 9.4 points per 36 minutes, but only grabs 5.4 rebounds per game (his lowest since 2012); he has a 15.38 PER (32nd in the league, 25th among starters). His value comes from the intangibles: chipping in a 3.3 Defensive Box Plus/Minus (highest of his career), 1.2 Win Share.
But, most important of all, Zaza has brought the entertainment factor:
And a particular set of dance moves:
While both videos above are hilarious in their own particular ways, I think both have a theme — a guy looking to fit in. Pachulia reminds me of the guy on your pick-up team who seems like he is joking around too much, but somehow finds ways to get buckets. He is the guy that high-fives a bit too hard and screams a bit too much when your team scores. You kinda hate him and you murmur under your breath that you can’t stand him. But then you realize his secret: he is enjoying the game way more than you are. You can’t help but then lighten up and play looser, and that makes all the difference. Pachulia looks like he loves every minute that he is out on the court, and for a team with such high expectations and pressure, that can be invaluable.
And he understands that. Pachulia didn’t come to Golden State to be a star player. He came to do the dirty work:
“The little things are what get you to the next level,” Pachulia told The Mercury News. “I believe in the little things. The screens you don’t see in the stats, the hockey assists. I’m a big believer in that.
“I’m going into my 13th year and most of the years, I’ve done the same things,” he added. “What this team needs from the big man is obviously setting good screens, making free throws, rebounding, defending, blocking. All the little things, basically; doing the work to help these guys and to help the team win games.”
While Steve Kerr has shown a short leash for the big man, especially with certain defensive matchups, the Warriors will need minutes from him down the stretch this season to spell the small-ball lineup. Remember: Golden State is missing 37.4 minutes per game from both Bogut and Festus Ezeli from last year’s team. And though there are other possible replacements on the roster, Pachulia has done a wonderful job retaining his spot with the starters.
Pachulia might only find himself on this roster for one season. His market value is still high and deserves a good payday and guaranteed years if the Warriors can get him anything close to a ring. He helps the franchise with a bridge until they can find a long-term solution (maybe with Damian Jones?), and so far he has done a wonderful job.
I personally hope for much more “dirty work” from this International Man of Mystery, and a few more guaranteed hilarious highlights before the season ends.