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Rookie Eric Paschall is Golden State Warriors' bright spot in this dim season

TOP CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
01 Dec 2019, 16:38 IST

Rookie forward Eric Paschall has surprised this season.
Rookie forward Eric Paschall has surprised this season.

After dominating the league for 5 years, winning 3 titles, making 5 Finals appearances and setting all sorts of team and individual NBA records, the Golden State Warriors have taken a major step back this season. The Dubs, who just four years ago won a record 73 games currently have the worst record in the NBA at 4-16.

Besides key pieces such as Andre Iguodala, Quinn Cook, Shaun Livingston (now retired), DeMarcus Cousins, Jordan Bell, and Andrew Bogut departing, injuries have played a major factor.

Also read: NBA 2019-20: 5 teams most impacted by injuries

Klay Thompson has been out since the 3rd quarter of Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals with a torn ACL. The game before, in that same series, Kevin Durant (now a Brooklyn Net) tore his Achilles, effectively ending his Warriors career and ending his 2019-2020 season. Stephen Curry broke his wrist in a collision with Suns center Aron Baynes, taking him out for at least 3 months. Draymond Green has also been in and out with injuries, as well as All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell. Reserve guards Damion Lee and Jacob Evans have also been out for significant time, and rookie forward/center Alen Smailagic has only recently begun practicing with the G-League affiliate. The injuries have mounted so much that Green, normally a power forward and center, is now currently the starting point guard!

However, even in the midst of the struggle, three Warriors rookies have shown potential: point guard Ky Bowman, guard/forward Jordan Poole, and most notably, forward Eric Paschall.

Concerns about his height (measuring exactly at 6-foot-6 without shoes), his true position and skillset, and age (at 22, going on 23, he was considered 'old' for a rookie) likely led to Eric Paschall slipping all the way to the second round at the 41st pick. This was despite having three solid years at Villanova (after transferring from Fordham), as an important player on winning teams (including one NCAA championship).

From the moment he was drafted, Paschall was naturally taken under his wing by another undersized forward drafted in the second round named Draymond Green, who became an integral part of three championship teams. Even at Villanova, he heard those comparisons, due to their similarities in size, intensity, and skills. They even bear a passing resemblance facially. Besides Green, Paschall has evoked comparisons to other undersized 'tweeners', such as Nuggets forward Paul Millsap and former Hornets and Knicks great Larry Johnson.


Fellow undersized 2nd round pick Draymond Green has naturally taken Eric Paschall under his wing
Fellow undersized 2nd round pick Draymond Green has naturally taken Eric Paschall under his wing

In the absence of Curry and Russell, Paschall is currently the team’s leading scorer at 17.0 points per game. He has also contributed 5.2 rebounds, on 50% shooting for the field, and 80.9% from the free throw line. Paschall has mostly played the power forward position, but due to injuries, as well as his versatility, he has spent time at small forward and even center this season.

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Paschall is quite capable defensively, but he is not on Draymond Green’s level yet; he still has some things to learn and improve on in that area. He is also no Draymond with regards to passing and shot-blocking as well. However, he can put the ball on the floor and post up. He has also shown 3-point range (albeit at 27.1%), and is capable of being a fierce rebounder.

At a sculpted 255 pounds, Paschall is capable of playing 'bully ball' in the paint, using his strength and leaping ability to finish with authority, even in traffic. He has had a few highlight reel dunks this season already. But his biggest statement that he has made in the NBA thus far came in a nationally-televised game against the Portland Trail Blazers on November 4th in San Francisco.

Also read: NBA Playoffs: 3 Western Conference teams that are already out of postseason contention

On his 23rd birthday, Paschall powered the Warriors to a 127-118 victory with 34 points, 13 rebounds and 1 block. He shot 11-of-19 from field, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range and was 8-of-8 from the free throw line.

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