Don’t Overlook Eric Paschall’s Unforgettable Rookie Season

The Golden State Warriors have done it again. They managed to turn another second-round pick into a needed rotation piece.

Following in the footsteps of Draymond Green, Eric Paschall has become the latest underrated gem the team has found. He was overlooked by all 30 teams on draft night but finally came off the board with the 41st overall pick, and the Warriors have been reaping the benefits ever since.

This wouldn’t be the first time that he went unnoticed on a national level.

In 2014, he committed to Fordham University, but after averaging 15.9 points and 5.5 rebounds as a true freshman, he transferred to Villanova to play for Jay Wright. There, he would win a national championship and 94 of the 118 games he played in. As a senior, he put up 16.3 points and 6.1 rebounds while shooting 34.8 percent from the three-point line.

Wright knew that Paschall’s game was a better fit for the more spacious style of play that the NBA operates within. The Warriors were certainly hoping that would be the case when they took a chance on him in the second round of the 2019 NBA Draft.

Heading into this year, everyone knew things would be different for Golden State with Kevin Durant leaving for Brooklyn and Klay Thompson recovering from a torn ACL. Yet, injuries to Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and D’Angelo Russell have helped drop the former back-to-back champions from the top of the league to the bottom.

As of December 10, their 5-20 record was the second-worst in the NBA.

In the midst of their sustained losing, they’ve managed to maintain a silver lining with Paschall’s play. His 16.6 scoring average ranks third for Warriors on the season, however, neither player above him (Russell, 22; Curry, 20.3) have played more than 15 games. Meanwhile, the rookie has appeared in 24 and started 18.

Many projected Paschall to be a high-caliber role player at best: a serviceable offensive piece who would likely struggle to guard at this level. He’s already surpassed that a quarter into his first NBA season.

Of the entire 2019 draft class, only second overall pick Ja Morant has produced on a similar level.

Kerr’s uptempo motion offense ties in perfectly with what Paschall was doing at Villanova for the past three years. His ability to read and react on offense has made him one of the team’s best players despite it being his first season in the league.

The game has trended more towards small ball, and at 6’6”, 255 pounds, he would have once been considered a tweener in previous eras. Now, he is the archetype of the player all teams are looking for. He can defend players bigger or smaller than him. He is able to dribble, pass and shoot at an above-average level.

Golden State has found someone they can mold into whatever they need. Right now, Paschall will get to learn through failure and mistakes, but when the full cavalry returns, he should be able to slot right in alongside the team’s core pieces as a second-unit scoring cog or a finisher with the first group. Either way, he’ll take some of the pressure off Curry, Thompson and (maybe) Russell to bear so much of the scoring load. 

He’s not the defensive savant that Green has proven to be, but the two could be dynamic on that end of the floor, especially when playing against smaller lineups.

The Warriors morphed into a strong defense when they unlocked the ability to switch everything because of their many high-IQ defenders. Adding Durant took them a step further as his length and athleticism unlocked another level.

Paschall won’t be that good, but he could progress to someone the coaches feel comfortable defending any position, which would allow them to go back to their preferred style of play.

That same versatility extends to the offensive end as well. Paschall has already proven he play in the post or from the perimeter, and that’s despite typically getting his opponent’s best or second-best defender every night by default.

Nov 22, 2019; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Eric Paschall (7) drives with the ball while defended by Utah Jazz guard Emmanuel Mudiay (8) during the second quarter at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

His strength has been a key part of his transition to the NBA. He can bang in the paint with bigs, or he can overpower wings and guards to get to the lane. The only thing Paschall’s been lacking so far is his perimeter touch. He’s attempting 2.4 three-pointers a night but is only making 29.3 percent of his looks. Becoming more consistent from outside the paint is the next step of his development.

While some comparisons to Green have been made, the All-Star is a non-threat from deep and Golden State certainly can’t have their rookie replicate that much longer.

The Warriors began the season with roster turnover and injuries that brought their future as perennial title contenders under question. Given the reconfiguration of the league around them, many felt like their reign had finally come to an end.

Yes, they are now shooting to win the 2020 NBA Draft lottery rather than the 2020 NBA Finals, but there remains plenty of light at the end of the tunnel. Paschall has been the conductor of the hype train, and after the abundance of talent the franchise operated with for five seasons, he and a high draft pick could go a long way toward turning things around quickly in 2020-21. 

For years, Golden State was treated like a forgotten franchise. The players there were treated as castoffs or were young guys trying to find their way. This season has been a reminder of what once was, but luckily the new regime won’t let this team remain at the bottom for much longer.

The scouting to find a player like Paschall—and now the effort they are putting in to develop him—shows that they believe he could be a big piece of their plans going forward.