In a recent article for FanRag Sports, I was asked if Zaza Pachulia had done enough to be brought back or if the Golden State Warriors should look for a replacement in the offseason. This thought has inevitably crossed the mind of every Warriors fan at some point this year.
Pachulia wasn't exactly the most productive player — averaging six points and six rebounds on the season. However, he was sharing the floor with four of the best players in the game, three of whom happen to be arguably the best shooters in the league right now.
Around this time last year, I wrote a preview for what Warriors fans could expect from Pachulia and it boiled down to five key points:
- A physical rebounder who uses his body well to box out opponents.
- A downgrade defensively from Andrew Bogut, but not a bad defender in general; he’s good at staying vertical and getting his body in front of drivers.
- Has some good fakes under the rim, but is an inefficient finisher, to say the least.
- Sets great screens and isn't afraid to deploy some "tricks" to get teammates open.
- Underrated passer.
What I missed at the time and had no way of predicting was Pachulia’s ability to run with this team. In short bursts he did a great job at keeping up with the pace — at least more so than Andrew Bogut ever did — which is not something many centers can do.
Pachulia isn't the most athletic center nor is he the most skilled. However, when you accept Pachulia for what he is there is some real value in his game. Is it frustrating watching him blow layups or get into foul trouble in the finals? Absolutely but when you look beyond the box score you start to notice some things, such as his ability to keep formidable bigs like Tristan Thompson off the glass, his tenacity when chasing down loose balls and his willingness to utilize some veteran savvy to get a teammate open or irritate a defender.
On top of all this, he seems like a positive presence in the locker room.
Zaza Pachulia handed Klay Thompson a framed SF Chronicle at practice today. pic.twitter.com/5gXNVaCVYO— Connor Letourneau (@Con_Chron) May 12, 2017
As a side note, it's worth remembering that Pachulia has a big heart; he hosted free basketball camps for children all around his native country of Georgia for years before forming his own basketball academy in Tbilisi last year.
“I’m very excited honestly and I can’t wait to get there. It’s great to see Georgia having this kind of basketball facility where kids are going to have a chance to not only practice in a good environment but also practice with great coaches and learn the right way, learn discipline, professionalism, the game of basketball, [its] history.”
Prior to this the conditions of the facility were terrible. They had no electricity or windows, Pachulia used to train in long sleeved sweatshirts and a hat.
His humble beginnings have seen him take an equally humble approach to his off-court endeavors. This makes him a great fit for Golden State’s already charitable locker room.
Sure, in an ideal world we would want to see an upgrade at the starting center spot as it's clearly the Warriors’ only real weakness in their starting five. Realistically, however, let's stop
being greedy day-dreaming and start being a little more logical.
According to roster-builder.com, for the Warriors to retain everyone aside from James Michael McAdoo, Ian Clark and Zaza Pachulia, they would only have the league minimum to offer to another center. This was calculated in a best case scenario type of situation where both Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston sign for the least amount of money possible, along with David West and JaVale McGee.
Obviously, these are rough figures and some of the details were taken from slightly older projections but the point still stands; the cost of replacing Pachulia completely outweighs the marginal improvement you might gain from replacing him with a slightly better player.
It looks like there's a good chance we will be seeing Pachulia return next season, let's just hope we see a lot more of the good stuff and a little less of him being blocked by the rim.
How would you grade Zaza Pachulia’s season?
This poll is closed
A - Excellent
B - Great
C - Good
D - Poor
Other (comment and explain)