Krieger head coach Steve Kerr pulled Eric Paschall aside before a recent practice session and gave him a new assignment: He would play in the center.
« He said, » This gives you the opportunity to get your hands on the ball more and attack other bigs, « Paschall said on Wednesday before the Warriors played the Los Angeles Clippers at the Chase Center. » So thought me: « This is good for me. »
The Warriors had a hole in their center rotation following Marquese Chriss’ leg injury in Chicago. Kerr saw the opportunity to fix two problems at once: fill minutes in a position of need, and put Paschall in a better position to be successful.
Paschall, a 6-foot-6, 255-pound player wall, had failed to act as a starting force forward. Now he’s fine.
In five games as the small ball center, Paschall has hit double digits in every game, helping to anchor a second unit for a Warriors team that has won four of its last five.
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This is not a new position for Paschall, who was elected to the first all-rookie team as a power-forward last season after an average of 14 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. During Paschall’s four years at Villanova, head coach Jay Wright routinely played him in the middle to harness his power, downhill speed and jumping ability.
« Of course it’s not the NBA, but I made it through college, » said Paschall. « Well, I’m very comfortable with it. »
However, Paschall felt uncomfortable as he took power in place of an injured Draymond Green to open the season. He was asked to lead the ball, guard several positions, and make 3-pointers from the corner. In two games he averaged 6.5 points at 35.7% shooting (1: 4 from 3-point range), 1.5 rebounds and 0.5 assists.
But after the move to the middle he looked more like the outstanding newcomer who used his strength, his athleticism and his isolation ability to ram into the basket.
Against the Trail Blazers, Paschall outperformed Portland’s backup center Enes Kanter, a traditionally tall man who thrives in the post. In two games in a row, Paschall used his speed to get past Kanter and his strength to fight him in the color. As a result, Portland was beaten by 11 points when Kanter was on the ground.
One night later against the Kings, Paschall had his best game of the season and ended with 14 points in 6-on-10 shooting (2-on-3 from 3-point range), seven rebounds and four assists, while restricting Hassan Whiteside. Sacramento 7 feet, on eight points and two rebounds.
« Eric did a really good job developing a role for himself and he put together some good games in a row, » said Kerr. « Hopefully this is a role he can really stick to and hold for the year. »
In addition, Paschall still has to improve as an all-round defender. Despite having the strength to hold his own against great players in the Post, Paschall is working on his help with defense, understanding positioning, and understanding the game book.
Green, who returned from a foot injury three games ago that paused him early in the season, is the ideal role model for the 24-year-old and has helped Paschall learn the intricacies of playing as a center for small balls .
With rookie James Wiseman as the starting center and Kevon Looney as the primary backup, Paschall is like the diversion from Golden State Kerr can turn to when Stephen Curry and Green are on the bench and the offensive needs a boost.
In addition to Andrew Wiggins, Kent Bazemore and Damion Lee, Paschall has the freedom to play and score in space.
« Moving out of position and playing center this year was something new for him and he’s adapted really well, » said Looney. « He was a matchup problem for a lot of people. I always joke that he’s one of the strongest players in the league. So it was great for him to show his entire game. »
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