His signing didn’t set off shock waves across the sports landscape like that of Kevin Durant just days prior, but to the Golden State Warriors, Zaza Pachulia agreeing to join the squad on a discounted contract is a major step in being able to fulfill enormous expectations.
The big man from Tbilisi, Georgia, is entering his 14th season in the NBA and said the decision to join the Dubs “wasn’t that difficult” to make after signing his contract on Tuesday in Oakland.
Pachulia acknowledged taking a pay cut to chase a championship ring, but made clear he wasn’t interested in talking about his wage.
“This is something personal,” he said to reporters. “I don’t want to keep talking about it. I made a decision; I’m proud of my decision. I’m happy with it. I’m never going to look back at all.”
Pachulia averaged 8.6 points and 9.4 rebounds over 26.4 minutes per game last season for the Dallas Mavericks.
But fans should be hesitant in their expectations that he’ll easily replace Andrew Bogut’s production: Pachulia’s numbers were boosted by a hot start. He averaged 10.8 points and 10.9 rebounds per game over his first 38 games before reverting to the mean in the second half after logging more minutes than expected on a surgically repaired Achilles tendon.
Pachulia also is not a traditional rim protector. The center’s 0.29 blocks per game ranks below shooter Kyle Korver and tied new teammate Andre Iguodala, who isn’t known for shutting down opponents at the rim.
That isn’t to say he won’t be effective defensively. His former Mavs teammates complimented him for being an exceptional communicator from his defensive position under the rim, and his commitment to team defense and rotations is an asset in the modern NBA.
Pachulia is also an adept distributor at 1.9 assists per game despite low usage, and his passing numbers per 48 minutes should improve this season with world-class shooters waiting at every station on the perimeter.
“Definitely not going to do the things I’m not capable of doing,” he said, explaining his role. “I think my game really fits with this team and this system.”
Head coach Steve Kerr and general manager Bob Myers clearly agreed. And at the low cost of $2.9 million, Pachulia represents a low-cost gamble worth taking after building a reputation of being beloved by his teammates.