Warriors fill the middle with Zaza Pachulia
It’s easy to see why a free agent might want to join the Golden State Warriors.
After adding Kevin Durant to the fold, the two-time defending Western Conference champions look more primed than perhaps any team in league history to win their second NBA title in three years.
That isn’t the only reason why journeyman center Zaza Pachulia said his decision to join the Warriors “wasn’t difficult.” Similar to the factors that played into Durant choosing Golden State as his ultimate destination, Pachulia said it was the Warriors’ desire for him that made the move a no-brainer.
Pachulia comes off one of his best statistical pro seasons, averaging 8.6 points and 9.4 rebounds in just over 26 minutes a game. The rebounding total, by far the highest of his career, is especially crucial, considering the Warriors came up short on the boards against both Oklahoma City and Cleveland during the playoffs.
Some could argue that Pachulia’s best season was actually in 2014-15 with Milwaukee. ESPN’s real-plus minus had the 6-foot-11 center as the second-most effective player at his position in the entire league, with the Bucks 4.8 points better when he was on the floor.
According to what Pachulia told reporters on Tuesday, the Georgian was not exactly excited when he heard the 73-win team would be adding another MVP to the fold, at least initially:
“I was kind of jealous, but after a couple hours I heard I was coming here, so it was a great 24 hours for me … My agent called me and told me the options I had and that the (Warriors) had interest in me. Then I talked to Coach Kerr and he told me I was his first option and it was really exciting moment for me. It’s always great to feel that you are wanted by somebody, especially the Golden State Warriors.”
Making players feel that they are wanted has become somewhat of a specialty for the Warriors. It was one of the primary reasons Durant cited in signing with Golden State, evidenced by the five stars of the team meeting with him face-to-face.
This surprised Durant, probably even more so after his teammate of seven years, Russell Westbrook, was a no-show during his initial meetings with Oklahoma City.
Pachulia, though not near to the splash signing that KD was, expressed the same feelings when Draymond Green reached out to him shortly after agreeing to sign with Golden State:
“Draymond texted me the first day and it was great. Surprising and great gesture from him.”
Some might call this as a classic case of ring-chasing — as they will with new signing David West, who ironically got into an altercation with Pachulia during a Spurs-Mavericks game last season —Pachulia looks to be a key signing at great value for a Warriors team that just lost centers Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli to free agency.
Pachulia’s ability to put the ball in the basket, something Bogut seemed less and less willing to do, is a nice bonus. But as Zaza explained, scoring is far from his primary role on a team with three of the best shooters in the league:
“My game is playing hard, playing tough, rebounding, good passing ability — something Andrew (Bogut) was one of the best in the league at doing — and the guys will benefit from me.”
Like Bogut, Pachulia is a gifted passer with a high basketball IQ. On a team stocked with playmakers, that passing ability should work wonders to help break down defenses, as Bogut’s so often did when conducting the offense from the high post.
Not only is Golden State the best possible destination for Pachulia, his skill set looks like an ideal complimentary piece on the loaded Warriors roster.
That’s probably why despite only signing a one-year deal worth $2.9 million, Pachulia couldn’t be more confident in his decision:
“I’m proud of my decision. I’m happy with it. I’m never gonna look back at all.”