Zaza Pachulia’s underrated passing ability will be key for Warriors

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Zaza Pachulia, Golden State Warriors
AP Photo/Matt York

The Golden State Warriors traded starting center Andrew Bogut to the Dallas Mavericks in a cap-shaving move in order to make room for Kevin Durant, then they canvassed the free agent market for a veteran replacement big before deciding to ironically sign Zaza Pachulia, who manned the middle for Dallas in 2015-16.

Pachulia inked a one-year $2.9 million placeholder deal with the Dubs, and he’s now tasked with filling the void left by the brainy Bogut, who anchored Golden State’s historically stifling defense. 

By discarding of Bogut, Golden State lost a low-usage, perspicacious defensive and offensive player that had the ability to free the likes of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green of the ball and initiate the offense in spurts.

Pachulia isn’t as renowned of a passer as Bogut, but underestimating his prowess in the distribution department would be unfair to a guy who ranked 12th in assist percentage amongst centers logging at least 25 minutes a night last season. Pachulia was also 6th in assist ratio (the number of assists a player averages per 100 of their own possessions) amongst fives that saw at least 25 minutes of action a contest with a mark of 15.3 in 2015-16.

Since the 2013-2014 season only four centers (Joakim Noah, Marc Gasol, DeMarcus Cousins and Bogut) have dished out more assists than Pachulia’s 442. Pachulia trails Bogut by 12 dimes in that timeframe despite starting 41 fewer games, but when you realize that Pachulia has played 256 more minutes than Bogut since ’13-14, the picture becomes more lucid. 

Zaza Pachulia, Golden State Warriors
Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group

Pachulia was also fifth amongst all starting centers in secondary assists, a metric that is basically the basketball version of a hockey assist. Lastly, he generated 4.3 points via assists per contest, which is a full point and some change behind Bogut’s mark of 5.6, but Pachulia compensates for this with a spicier offensive game. 

Pachulia is not only a screen-setting brute, but he can be relied on to manufacture points via post-ups, and he’s shown the capability to step out and knock down a 10-14 foot jumper, something we seldom saw from Bogut.

Golden State did not sign Zaza Pachulia to be an offensive darling. They have Durant, Curry, Thompson and Green to fulfill that duty. Pachulia will be tasked with preventing the Warriors from a conspicuous drop-off in interior defense and rim-protection. However, his passing ability should not be underestimated, and it may provide GSW with some of the same luxuries they were supplied with by Bogut. 

 

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