The Golden State Warriors have begun a relatively non-taxing road trip to test the theory that the Oklahoma City Thunder relit the competitive pilot light. More importantly, though, the new referendum on Zaza Pachulia and his place in the NBA's alphabet has begun.
Specifically, is he:
(B). Strategically clumsy.
(C). Tactically oafish.
(D). Just a happy-go-lucky bear-man who doesn’t know his own capacity for menace.
But as you can see, this is actually a debate between (A) and (All The Other Options), because Pachulia has the reputation he’s going to have, period. He wasn’t exactly a hero among the league’s other players anyway, then burnished it with his wayward foot beneath Kawhi Leonard that changed the Warriors-Spurs series last year and perhaps Leonard’s career as a whole. And now his uncomfortable rollover on Russell Westbrook’s legs after a play beneath the Golden State basket during the Warriors’ 112-80 hammering of the Thunder.
The play as you look at repeatedly looks more like (d) than (a), but not that different from (b) or (c), so the question becomes one of degree that looks more like this:
Is Zaza Pachulia:
(E): A bully.
(F): An enforcer.
(G): A significantly less adept Stephen Adams.
(H): Exactly the kind of piece all winning teams have – a guy who doesn’t need the ball at all, occasionally will be a liability but overall is hard to replace.
And there, all answers are correct.
Pachulia is hard on the eyes as players go, even more so since JaVale McGee was field-promoted to fan favorite last year. Fans hate his essentially hopelessness as an offensive force, they see his capacity for committing fouls and the number of centers among the group of title contenders against whom he is genuinely hopeless – your Adamses, your Clint Capelas, your Al Horfords and Jonas Valanciunases.
Spell that one five times fast. I dare you.
In other words, Pachulia is indeed B, C, F and G. He is capable of being A though is not routinely so, is often D without even trying, knows there are times when he is required to be E, and as he is still a Warrior, very definitely H.
But you’ll have decided what piece of the alphabet he is on a case-by-case basis. Think of him as a game of Scrabble with shoes.