After a breakout rookie season, Eric Paschall had a particular job to do this year.
As a rookie, he got the chance to cut loose on a bad team. The roster was decimated by injuries, and many of the remaining healthy veterans were traded away as the season went on. Of his 60 games, Paschall started 26 of them. He played over 30 minutes 28 times, and over 25 minutes 40 times, with an overall average of 27.6 per game.
He seized the opportunity by showing off his scoring prowess. He averaged 14 points per game, or 18.2 per 36 minutes. He did so with reasonable efficiency (49.7% shooting), as well as nightly consistency — he finished in double-digits 44 times, and only six times did he fail to do so while playing at least 20 minutes. Despite being a second-round draft pick, Paschall registered in the Rookie of the Year voting.
His success last winter showed us that, in a vacuum, he can score at an NBA level. But entering the new season, the assignment changed. The stars are back in action, so he would need to take a step back and slot in as more of a supporting character off the bench. With his role more limited, could he still reliably put the ball in the basket when called on?
So far, the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, not only is he still scoring, but his efficiency has skyrocketed.
His minutes have dropped by 30%, and he’s taking three fewer shots each night, but he’s only lost two points off his average. Quick comp:
- Paschall, 19-20: 27.6 min, 14.0 pts, 10.7 fga, 49.7% fg, 57.1% TS, 21.4% usage
- Paschall, 20-21: 19.4 min, 11.8 pts, 7.9 fga, 55.6% fg, 63.9% TS, 20.5% usage
When he’s on the court he’s still involved about as much as he was last year. But with more talent around him to share the load, he doesn’t need to force as many shots and can instead pick his most favorable spots to attack. Even more importantly, he can do so by providing alternate methods than most of the rest of the team.
The Dubs still have lots of shooters. Whether they have enough good ones remains to be seen, but there’s not a shortage of personnel to attempt the deep shots. Paschall can hit from downtown too, just enough to respect his range, but it’s not his primary strength. Instead, he can be the bully inside, especially when he’s coming off the bench against the opponent’s slower, bulkier backup big.
Whether it’s Enes Kanter with Portland, or Hassan Whiteside with Sacramento, or Ivica Zubac of the Clippers, the 6’6” Paschall has no problem getting past any of them. Whether it’s for a dunk, a hard-fought layup, or an open jumper he created, when he’s the small-ball center he seems able to do just about whatever he wants on offense, powering through smaller players and around bigger ones.
“I feel like I’m a mismatch at the 5,” Paschall told 95.7 The Game. “Bigger dudes guarding me, and I feel like I’m strong enough to guard in the post, so I feel like that helps me out a lot on both ends of the floor and gives us an advantage on offense. ... It’s my ability to get to my spots and shoot my mid-range jumper, and if they come up on the mid-range jumper I’m able to go by them.”
That comes in extra handy at moments when the team’s shooting runs cold. If the threes aren’t falling, or the motion isn’t flowing properly, then hand the rock to Paschall and he can be the microwave scorer off the bench. His last six games:
- 19 min, 15 pts, 4-of-8 fg, 6-of-7 ft
- 13 min, 10 pts, 3-of-4 fg, 4-of-6 ft
- 17 min, 13 pts, 5-of-7 fg, 3-of-3 ft
- 16 min, 10 pts, 5-of-6 fg, 0 ft
- 22 min, 14 pts, 6-of-10 fg, 0 ft
- 20 min, 19 pts, 7-of-14 fg, 5-of-5 ft
What do you need him to do? Pop in for 10 minutes and drop a few buckets? Take over for 20 minutes and get you back in the game? Draw some fouls? Just type it in on the keypad and press the Start button, and he’ll cook it up for you.
Golden State’s bench is rounding out into a promising unit. They have several shooters to pick between, like Damion Lee, Mychal Mulder, Kent Bazemore, and Jordan Poole, with Brad Wanamaker as a backup playmaker. They have strong big man defense to call on, with Kevon Looney. But when nothing else is working on offense, which has not been an uncommon occurrence as the evolving roster gets to know each other better, Paschall is developing into someone who can jumpstart it back into action.