SAN FRANCISCO — No one in the Warriors’ front office or on the coaching staff knows the extent of Eric Paschall’s NBA potential. Neither does he. In the fourth month of his career, he has provided ample evidence to engage debate.
After his first six weeks: Solid Rookie of the Year candidate.
After the next five weeks, during which endured assorted aches and pains in his joints: Uh, um, well, maybe he’s solid rotation player.
After the last two: He can start for any team and produce under pretty much any condition.
Paschall shed some light on his progress Saturday night after doing his part and more to lift the Warriors to a 109-95 win over the Orlando Magic. Making his second start since Dec. 11, he scored 20 points, grabbed nine rebounds and added two steals in 35 minutes.
He was a difference-maker, looking much more like the player we’d glimpsed in the first six weeks than during the five that followed.
There is, he acknowledged, a reason for that.
“I feel those injuries were kind of a blessing in disguise in terms of my body and getting the proper rest I needed,” he said of discomfort felt in both hips during various stages of December.
“Your rookie year is probably your longest year because right after college you’re going to pre-draft workouts, flying across the country for a workout, maybe have a back-to-back workout. Right after that, you go into training camp for summer league. Right after that, you go into training camp. So, you don’t really get a lot of time off. That was really good for me in terms of my body and having time to recover.”
This point, which can be lost in translation, is particularly applicable to Paschall because he played four years of college ball, 27 games as a freshman at Fordham and 110 at powerhouse Villanova. The Wildcats played deep into March.
Coming to the Warriors this season, when much of their roster was being rebuilt, Paschall dived into the opportunity to play. A lot. He averaged a team-high 33 minutes over his first 22 NBA games, 19 of which he scored in double figures. He didn’t hit the vaunted “rookie wall.” He was thrown up against it.
Paschall missed two games in mid-December due to soreness in his left hip. He missed two more games in late-December with what was described as a contusion on his right hip.
As he made several attempts to play through the discomfort, it was apparent he was not struggling. His production took a steep drop, as did his minutes. He scored 70 points in the first four games of December, 73 over the next 11, bleeding into January.
Paschall’s 20-point game Saturday was his first since he rang up 24 points on Dec. 2. His nine rebounds were the most since he pulled that same amount on that same night.
Citing Paschall’s solid play over the previous four games, it was an easy call for coach Steve Kerr to start the 6-6, 250-pound rookie at power forward Saturday for the ailing Draymond Green.
The reward was efficiency (8-of-14 shooting from the field, 2-of-5 from beyond the arc) and impact and indicated, again, that Paschall is better suited to power forward than small forward, where he also has spent some time.
“It’s just more floor spacing,” Kerr said. “He’s so quick off the dribble and he’s got that burst at the rim, so when he’s at the four, even with a great athlete like Aaron Gordon out there, he still has the space to go to the rim and create a play.
“At the three, it’s a little more difficult to do that because you have more big guys in the paint. It’s an easier position for Eric to play, and he was fantastic.”[RELATED: Steph’s powerful message to young Dubs]
After initially suggesting his game is no different at small forward than it is at power forward, Paschall agreed with Kerr’s assessment.
“Yeah, I understand why he says that, in terms of just being able to attack,” he said. “Now that I think about it, I would say spacing at the four is (beneficial).”
There is little debate about that. And no debate at all that Paschall has the physical tools and mental makeup to prosper in the NBA.