SAN FRANCISCO — Six games into his NBA career, Eric Paschall has earned the responsibility of providing considerable production and stability for a franchise five months removed from its fifth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals.
It’s an unfair ask, of course, but Paschall isn’t the type to moan. A 6-foot-6, 255-pound rock of a rookie, he possesses a stellar blend of brains and brawn. He also has the internal drive that sometimes comes with being bypassed in the first round of the draft.
Paschall is, fortunately for the Warriors, built for this.
“He knows who he is,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s powerful, confident and he’s got an interesting game.”
Paschall scored a career-high 20 points Wednesday night in a loss to the Phoenix Suns, and then came back Saturday to top that with a team-high 25 in a 93-87 loss to the Charlotte Hornets. He’s driving to the cup, even if it means going through defenders. He’s pulling up for mid-range jumpers when there is a crack of an opening.
His 3-point shot has not arrived, and his rebounding, so far, doesn’t measure up to that of a typical power forward. Insofar as he had only two double-digit rebounding games in three years at Villanova, Paschall might never be a beast on the glass.
That weakness hurt the Warriors in the final seconds against the Hornets. Paschall twice had decent rebounding position on missed free throws but couldn’t secure the ball either time. Charlotte snagged both and pulled out a 93-87 victory at Chase Center. He totaled four rebounds, three fewer than small forward Glenn Robinson III
“I’m more of a win type of guy than look at my stats,” he said. “I mean, 25 is good. But I’d rather have 14 and a win. Obviously, as a rookie, to have 25 means a lot. But I’d rather have 12, 10 and a win, come up with those two rebounds and have a chance to win it. It feels good, but I’d rather come out with that win.”
Paschall is accustomed to winning. After a freshman season at Fordham, he transferred to powerhouse ‘Nova and played on teams that rolled into the NCAA Tournament each year, and came away with a national championship in 2018, his junior year.
This gig with the Warriors, under the present circumstances, is a most unwanted adjustment. Furthermore, this was not part of the plan. Not at all.
Paschall was drafted in the second round, No. 41 overall, to provide frontcourt depth. The Warriors visualized him learning some of the tricks that have made power forward Draymond Green — another former second-round draft pick — a three-time champion and three-time All-Star.
But Green, already playing through back and elbow soreness, sustained a sprained left index finger against the Spurs on Friday, did not play Saturday and likely will miss at least a week. Draymond’s ambulance to overcrowded Warriors General Medical Center allowed him to join teammates Stephen Curry (broken left hand), Klay Thompson (left ACL rehab), Kevon Looney (neuropathy) and Jacob Evans (left adductor strain). And, for at least one night, D’Angelo Russell, who missed the Charlotte game with a sprained right ankle.
Thus, so much more is being asked of others, mostly young, on the roster. And Paschall, the mature rook, who has played at least 31 minutes in three of the team’s six games, is proving best equipped to respond. That much is apparent to both coaches and players.
“He’s just smart, attentive, willing to learn,” said Damion Lee, at 27 the second-oldest Warrior available Saturday. “But he also knows what his strength is and he’s confident in what he can do.
“He’s becoming a man. For him, just learning and growing through his rookie year, just taking these bumps, he has a bright future as long as he keeps his head down and keeps working.”
Paschall was, for most of the night against the Hornets, the team’s favored threat. Time and again, the Warriors fed him and let him find a way to score. His 25 points came on 10-of-18 shooting.
“I just got to thank my teammates for that for believing in me that much, especially as a rookie,” Paschall said. “When I got dudes that have been in the league for a while that’s giving me the ball and saying ‘Go, go attack,’ that’s a good feeling but it’s a long season.”
With 76 games to play, and so many accomplished vets on the sideline, every Warrior is on trial. They’re being evaluated every day, in practice and in games, for long-term prospects.
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“I didn’t know a whole lot about him; I don’t watch a lot of college basketball,” Kerr said. “The little I’ve seen of him, I liked because you could tell he had the body, strength and explosiveness to fit into the NBA game. I knew he had a lot to work with.”
Paschall is, in most ways, a rookie accelerating, getting ahead of schedule. The Warriors, in most ways, this season, have no schedule. They simply want to see which youngsters fit their preferred profile.
Paschall fits. Indeed, he’s no longer allowed the luxury of being a youngster.