Stout Forward shows how quickly you stay in front of leaner players.
Last season, Eric Paschall played 65% of his minutes at the Golden State Warriors center.
They weren’t brilliant. Paschall’s rim protection didn’t do much for the Warriors, nor did he fit the attacking style Steph Curry and his friends wanted to play. The season went bad enough that Paschall, after making the rookie first team in his first year, was available for a second-round pick the next.
But in 10 games, Paschall has reinvented himself in a new position for the Jazz: defender of the perimeter. In these competitions and in a bench role, he faced some pretty tough clashes and exceeded expectations. Paschall comes across as a big 6-foot-6, 255-pounder, but he’s been able to stay ahead of much leaner players with impressive speed.
The defensive numbers are impressive. According to Synergy Sports, which tracks individual defensive possessions, Paschall allows just 0.8 points per possession when attacked on defense. When attacked in isolation, that number drops to just 0.6 points per possession.
And it’s also against some relatively good players. Paschall kept DeMar DeRozan, Buddy Hield, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler, Lou Williams and Will Barton for his roughly 15 minutes a night off the bench. Remember, those minutes went to Georges Niang last season – an improved defender, but still exposed in the playoffs.
What makes Paschall more successful than you would expect for a big man defending the perimeter?
“I think it’s his physique, his competitiveness. I think if you have these things you can keep improving, ”Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “Not having been in these situations, there is a lot of patience and experience that goes with it. I also saw it in draft practices two years ago. You watch a tape, I think he plays with passion.
Certainly, to continue to stay on the pitch, Paschall will have to start contributing more on the attacking side. Although he was impressed with a few practices and dunks, the overall scoring game was more limited. He shoots just 36% from the total court and 24% from a distance of 3 points. If he is unable to sink more than his 3s, the Jazz bench unit will begin to suffer against the teams who read the scout report and let Paschall shoot.
And Paschall will soon have competition for his minutes too. The biggest acquisition of the offseason wasn’t Paschall, but Rudy Gay, who also thinks he’ll find a home first by playing the back-up striker position. He is progressing towards his debut with Jazz, probably next month. Once Gay is healthy he will likely be relegated to the bench, but would still see a significant opportunity if any of the Jazz’s forwards fall, or if Hassan Whiteside cannot keep his game very solid so far.
Regardless, Gay’s absence has allowed Paschall to demonstrate versatility in the league, one of his most requested traits. No, he hasn’t got everything in place yet, but flashes of scoring and defense give him the opportunity to extend his NBA future.
“I just tried to take on the role: to bring energy, to provide defense, to make effort games. This year it’s like I don’t have to focus on scoring. It’s kind of a good thing for me, ”Paschall said. “My rookie year, I showed that I was able to score. This year, I don’t have to worry about that. Now I’m showing my defense and showing what I can do in other areas. It’s great for me, and great for my development.