Wednesday, June 03, 2009

2008-09 Season Review: Zaza Pachulia

The first draft of Zaza Pachulia's season review ended where this final draft will begin as I feel it's more interesting* than crossing well-trod ground again. Will veteran free agents this summer be more amenable to short-term deals in the hopes of squeezing in another lucrative contract should the economy recover or would they rather forgo some annual salary to secure a salary for a greater number of years?

*In retrospect, perhaps a series of season review posts, with half the rotation entering free agency, was not as appropriate as at the end of the 2007-08 season when most of the rotation was seemingly assured of returning.

This is an important for the Hawks as the cumulative annual cost for Pachulia, Mike Bibby, and Flip Murray shouldn't surpass the $20.7 million they collectively cost last season and, if the Hawks can stay off the hook for paying these guys into the next decade the argument for retaining the core of the 47-win team for one more year becomes stronger.

Either way, it's absolutely vital that the Hawks re-sign or truly replace Zaza Pachulia. Even with Pachulia, whose offensive rebound rate was twice that of any Hawk regular other than Al Horford (and 180% of Horford's offensive rebound rate) and defensive rebound rate was 20.9% (which would have ranked just outside the league's top 20 had he played enough minutes to qualify), the Hawks were still a subpar rebounding team: 19th in OR%, 24th in DR%. Part of that is surely due to to Mike Woodson regarding Pachulia more as a backup center than as a third big man (which he surely should have been given the composition of last season's roster) and thus being reluctant to use Pachulia and Horford* at the same time.

*Pachulia played 45.7% of his minutes alongside Smith, 26.7% of them alongside Horford.

Beyond his value on the glass, both absolutely and in consideration of the relative weakness his teammates in that crucial facet of play, Pachulia plays sound position defense when able to establish position and forces opponents to make free throws when he's caught out of position. Furthermore, though his offensive role has shrunk since Al Horford's arrival, Pachulia rebounded from his injury-plagued 2007-08 season to post career highs* in both FG% and FT Rate.

*Just because I like rebounding more than 30-year-old guards doesn't mean that the caveats regarding Mike Bibby and Flip Murray making a lot of shots in a contract year should not also be applied to Pachulia.

Now there's certainly a non-zero chance that Pachulia will actively look to play for another team (Whether that motivation is primarily a desire for a larger role, to play for a championship contender, or just for a different coach is immaterial.) next season which will open up a massive hole in the frontcourt rotation. Pachulia's varied skills* have gone some way toward hiding the fact that the Hawks haven't had a backup power forward for two seasons now. Should he not return, the Hawks will likely require the addition of two players (a smaller scorer/rebounder and a larger defender/rebounder) to fill the void.

*Pachulia's collection of skills (true center, two-way rebounder, efficient offensive player, decent defender, non-shot blocker) is unique and should appeal both to better teams wishing to add him as a top reserve and worse teams willing to install him as a starter.

1 comment:

Bronnt said...

We can only hope that other teams don't place an appropriate value on Zaza's contributions because they've been so marginalized by his usage and by the team around him.