It feels as if nothing has gone right for the Golden State Warriors, who just lost two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry to a broken left hand.
Their roster was already depleted and unrecognizable with Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala no longer on the team after a wild offseason. Before his injury, Curry was expected to be the stabilizing force for Golden State since Klay Thompson was already out indefinitely with a torn ACL.
Even with former All-Stars D’Angelo Russell and Draymond Green on their team, the Warriors looked like a shell of themselves. In a competitive Western Conference, early projections consider it highly unlikely that Golden State returns to the playoffs.
This means that the franchise that’s been to the NBA Finals in each of the last four seasons seems destined for a Top-14 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft for the first time since 2012. It also means that the most strategic move would be to put their young players on the court as often as possible to help with their development until Curry and Thompson return to full health.
Golden State may not be loaded with elite basketball prospects but during their first four games rookie Eric Paschall has played especially well for a second-round pick. The 6-foot-8 forward made his first career start against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night, scoring 20 points.
The 2018 NCAA champion is currently averaging 1.21 points per possession on offense, per Synergy Sports. That ranks fourth-best among the 148 players in the league who have finished as many possessions this year.
Most notably, he is shooting 18-for-23 (78.3 percent) on attempts taken within five feet of the basket. That is the most accurate mark of all players who have taken more than 15 shots in that zone so far this season. It is also worth mentioning that he’s already had more attempts in the restricted area than Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid.
He has been most efficient when cutting to the basket, connecting on 10 of his first 11 looks on these opportunities. In fact, only Houston Rockets big man Clint Capela has scored more points on this particular play type.
Paschall has been marvelous at finding limited space, sprinting down the lane and exploding to the rim for a bucket. He makes a lot of these plays look easy and he’s been consistently good in these situations.
While that may not continue at such an astronomically impressive rate, he has also shown that he can be a legitimate pick-and-roll partner with Russell. The first-year NBA player has shown veteran confidence, finishing in traffic and receiving contact from his defenders for the occasional and-one finish.
Paschall has had nine attempts as the roll man in these sets and he has scored six times, each time helping Russell get a well-earned assist in an offense that needs some reliable punch.
Russell has recorded 35 passes to Paschall this season, already accounting for nine assists on just 10 field goal attempts. The former No. 2 overall pick has recorded 17 assists in the 55 minutes (10.9 AST per 36) sharing the court with Paschall. For comparison, he has just 7 assists in the 63 minutes (3.9 AST per 36) without the rookie forward.
Golden State has scored 115.0 points per 100 possessions when Paschall has been on the court. That is the best offensive rating among all players on the Warriors outside of Ky Bowman, a rookie who has averaged just 9.0 minutes per game.
He still has a lot to prove as he hopes to make a lasting impression that convinces the front office to keep him in the rotation once Curry and Thompson are back in action.
But perhaps the best is yet to come for Paschall since he has yet to make a three-pointer and has only two attempts from long distance in his first four games.
Paschall averaged 1.9 three-pointers per game for Villanova last season and ranked No. 12 overall in the Big East for total three-pointers made. He also shot 39.3 percent from NBA distance, per the Stepien.
During his final collegiate campaign, more than half of his field-goal attempts were jumpers and he finished Top 5 in the Big East for total points scored on spot-up attempts.
This indicates that he could still reveal another important facet to his game as a potential floor spacer once he develops the confidence and rhythm to get his shot off from three.
Golden State may not have a lot of good news right now, but the early games from Paschall should at least give fans some hope about his production.