The Warriors now have a center with the same name as a Gabor sister, which would be amusing even if he literally did nothing but just take up space.
Zaza Pachulia was one of the best rebounders in basketball last season, though, and also has a nice midrange touch with solid facilitating skills.
Andrew Bogut was a gigantic reason that the Warriors have been successful these past few seasons. Not only was he an interior stalwart, but made some incredible passes on the other end of the court.
Credit the front office with being resilient enough to rebuild the roster with guys like Pachulia after so many salary cap casualties resulted from the Kevin Durant signing.
The biggest two were Bogut and Harrison Barnes, who will stay teammates in Dallas, which coincidentally was where Pachulia played last season.
Pachulia has quietly been a productive center for 13 NBA seasons, playing for the Magic, Bucks, Hawks, Bucks again, and the Mavericks.
He was actually born “Zaur,” but legally had his name changed to Zaza. He might be the 2nd greatest center whose name starts with a “Z,” after the one and only “Big Z” himself: Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Pachulia is originally from Georgia. The country, not the state. He’s probably one of very few people in the grand scheme of humanity who’ve spent significant time living in both the country and the state Georgia.
He was one of those kids that just looked born to play basketball. By the time he was 13, he stood at a lengthy 6’8’’, which is probably enough to get drafted first at the after school pickup game just based on rim protection alone.
He played in the Turkish basketball league for a team called Ulkerspor, which is unfortunately a defunct franchise at this point.
He developed his game there from 1999-2003, when he was drafted by the Orlando Magic with the 42nd overall pick.
Pachulia immediately made the jump to the NBA, but played sparingly in Orlando that first season.
He was selected by the Bobcats in their expansion draft, but was traded to the Bucks before ever suiting up for them.
Pachulia averaged 6.2 points per game and 5.1 rebounds per game in 18.9 minutes per game for the Bucks during the 2004-2005 season.
He also made a drastic improvement in his free throw shooting, going from 64.4% his rookie season to 74.6% for the Bucks.
The Hawks were impressed enough with his production in limited minutes to sign him that offseason, giving him the opportunity to become their starting center.
He averaged 11.7 points per game and 7.9 rebounds per game for the Hawks in 2005-2006, starting all 78 games he appeared in.
2006-2007 was his final season with the Hawks in which he averaged more than 20 minutes per game, though. He averaged a career high 12.2 points per game with a solid 6.9 rebounds per game before settling into a reserve role for the next 4 seasons in Atlanta.
In 2011-2012, his minutes per game shot back up to the high 20s, and he averaged 7.8 points per game and 7.9 rebounds per game. He also shot a career best 49.9% from the field.
Pachulia spent one more season on the Hawks before returning to the Bucks as a free agent for the 2013-2014 season.
He averaged 7.7 points per game, 6.3 rebounds per game, and shot free throws at 84.6%. He’d previously never shot better than 79% in any of his seasons.
Pachulia has always been an exceptional offensive rebounder. He’s not as prolific as Bogut on the defensive glass, but he’ll be an improvement crashing the offensive boards.
In a game in March of 2015 with the Bucks, he grabbed an astounding 18 offensive rebounds. For some perspective on how remarkable that is, the Thunder lead all NBA teams last season with 13.1 offensive rebounds per game. That’s an entire team.
Because Pachulia doesn’t get the same lofty minutes as other centers, his rebounds per game totals don’t jump off the page.
However, his true ability is illustrated when examining how his rebounding percentages compare to other front court players.
Only Nazr Mohammed, DeAndre Jordan, Joakim Noah, and Tyson Chandler have higher career offensive rebound percentages among active players than Pachulia. This guy creates extra possessions with the best of them.
In fact, he has a higher career offensive rebound percentage than players like Dikembe Mutombo, Shaquille O’Neal, and Robert Parish.
Of course he has a smaller sample size, because those guys had more opportunities to grab rebounds in the much greater minutes they played, but it’s still eye opening when purely judging how many boards he accumulates relative to his chances.
His defensive rebound percentage is more modest, though. He ranks 25th among active players, but is actually ahead of LaMarcus Aldridge, who is just 2 seasons removed from averaging over 11 rebounds per game.
Bogut was a stable presence in the middle, but Pachulia is quietly a very talented center. His career total rebound percentage is 15th among active players, ranking ahead of guys like Al Horford and Pau Gasol.
Pachulia is coming off a season with the Mavericks in which he averaged a career high 9.4 rebounds per game, which is extremely promising.
The main concern with Pachulia is that he’s not the shot blocker Bogut is. He’s a steady defender, but he’s not going to protect the rim or make players think twice about attacking the hoop.
Essentially the Warriors traded that shot blocking for a midrange jumper at the center position, which is something Bogut didn’t have.
From 10-15 feet, Pachulia has a career field goal percentage of 39.9%. From 16 feet to the 3-point line, he shoots 34.5% for his career.
Those are some solid numbers for a center. For comparison’s sake, Tim Duncan shot 38.9% for his career from 10-15 feet.
Defenses will have to honor Pachulia as a shooter away from the basket, which is something they never had to do for Bogut.
I’m excited to see how Pachulia fits in with the team. Pachulia is a center with some touch and excellent offensive rebounding ability. The Warriors will miss Bogut’s shot blocking, but Pachulia brings his own unique skill set.