Let's say you're 8 years old and it's Christmas time. You were promised a bike but for whatever reason, but it didn't work out. Instead, you got a new pair of running shoes and you hate them because, you know, it's not a bike.
This is the sentiment around Dallas with Zaza Pachulia coming in a cheap trade in the wake of DeAndre Jordan's defection and Tyson Chandler's move to Phoenix. He's not a big name so, who cares? Another strikeout for the Mavericks! At least, that's the knee-jerk reaction of many who have observed another tumultuous summer in the Big D.
Let's compare Tyson's numbers to Zaza last year. ... while enjoying the above video of his do-everything game for Milwaukee last year. There is more cause for hope here than there is cause for fear and loathing. ... and there might be some help in numbers.
"We'll do it by committee,'' Dirk said today at Mavs Media Day, talking about the center plan. And owner Mark Cuban views JaVale McGee as an "athletic freak.'' And coach Rick Carlisle today noted something about Sam Dalembert being needed to "kick ass on the boards,'' so ... yes. Committee.
To start, though, let's go Zaza vs. TY: Chandler averaged a double-double with the Mavs (10 points, 11 rebounds). Pachulia averaged 8.3 points per game with 6.8 rebounds. An obvious downgrade, you say. Case closed.
Not exactly. A closer look shows Pachulia's contested rebound percentage (47.2%) was actually higher than Chandler's (45.2%) even though Tyson did hold a slight advantage in uncontested rebounding percentage (54.8% to 52.8%).
One of Chandler's most redeeming qualities with the Mavericks was his ability, in particular, to clean the offensive glass, but a glance at the advanced stats show Pachulia was almost equally as effective. Chandler grabbed 14.1% of available offensive boards to Pachulia's 13.3%.
Also, on all rebounds three to six feet from the basket, Chandler's long arms were able to scoop in 46.1% of available boards. On closer in tries (rebounds between zero and three feet from the hoop), Chandler 60.2% of contested rebounds and 39.8% of uncontested. Pachulia, in the same category, grabbed 57.8% of contested boards and 42.8% of uncontested.
The two carried similar numbers in other key rebounding catergories. Chandler grabbed 81.1% of uncontested boards off missed free throw attempts to Pachulia's 78.9%. On contested rebounds six to 10 feet from the rim, Chandler held only a .7% advantage (32.7% to 32.0%) over the Mavericks' Georgian newcomer.
Hopefully, the point is getting across that Pachulia is, in some ways, close to as effective a rebounder as Chandler was if not equally so. Zaza actually grabbed 45.3% of available contested rebounds between three and six feet out to Chandler's 38.4%. At worst, this particular category can be a wash and at best, Pachulia brings some new elements to the table that Chandler lacked.
The Mavs utilized Chandler to perfection as a lethal roll man last year and the advanced numbers show it. He shot an effective field goal percentage of 66.8% in 72 games to Pachulia's 45.8% eFG in 72 games.
It's worth noting something here: 88.9% of Chandler's field-goal opportunities came within two feet of the basket, meaning he was either flushing down lobs, getting put-backs or valiantly doing some other variant of close-to-the-basket offensive work. Pachulia, on the other hand, scored just 53.4% of his shots on attempts within 10 feet of the basket and 39.1% on catch-and-shoot jumpers.
Chandler fit part of Dallas' system perfectly with his athleticism. Pachulia also maybe fits Dallas' system perfectly, but in a different way because of his different offensive skill set. Considering Chandler only took 9% of his field-goal attempts on catch-and-shoot jumpers, his eFG of 43.6% in that category is slightly misleading. Pachulia's eFG in the same category of 42.9% is perhaps more telling, considering he took way more jump shots. For example, Chandler was 2-for-4 on shots 10-14 feet from the basket last year. Pachulia was 53-for-107.
That smells like spacing to me.
Pachulia also scored 26.7% of his points on mid-range shots. Chandler? 4.7%. Are you getting the picture?
Another plus for Pachulia is his deft passing ability, which seems to be a theme among European bigs. He averaged 2.4 assists last year to Chandler's 1.1. He assisted on 15.5% of Milwaukee's buckets last year to Chandler's 5.3% and averaged 19.6 assists per 100 possessions to Chandler's 11.3. After the All-Star break last year, that number jumped to 20.4.
With a far more capable outside shooting team around him in Dallas this year, those numbers figure to only go up.
I'm not saying Pachulia is an even replacement for Chandler. TY clearly had better athleticism and far more prowess on the defensive glass … and that’s not even counting all the intangibles, starting with classy leadership. I'm also of the belief that Zaza as the backup center (which might happen here) would allow him to be even better ... and not be Peter Principled.
But I can argue that Pachulia brings better offensive rebounding chops, is a more-than-serviceable defensive glass cleaner and has an offensive skill set more befitting of Dallas' pace-and-space system with his mid-range game. The Butterfly Effect of his passing skills will dwarf anything Chandler did in that department. And if you are looking for something positive to come out of this training camp right away, look for this: Zaza’s case is also helped because of the lethal arsenal of shooters the Mavericks will trot out this year.
The Mavs didn’t get the new bike they wanted. But in Zaza as part of a rotation that will include Sam Dalembert and might include the healing JaVale McGee, they begin training camp practice on Tuesday at the AAC with a bunch of pairs of shoes. And we think the Zaza shoes might fit nicely.