Zaza Pachulia wasn't supposed to be the starting center for the Dallas Mavericks this season. In fact, he wasn't even supposed to be wearing a Mavs uniform. That role was supposed to go to DeAndre Jordan. However, that worn out saga took a turn for the worst, as we all know, and Pachulia was the 2015 version of the Mavs "we missed out on the big name and now we need a Plan B" storyline that has become more and more common over the past few years.
As the odds-on favorite to start the season (although certainly that could change), Pachulia may be seen for what he isn't. But as we take a look at what we can expect from him this season, it may dawn on you rather quickly that the Mavericks could have done much, much worse than landing the 31-year-old center from Georgia.
What is expected of Pachulia this season?
While it's still possible someone could uproot Pachulia for the spot, he'll likely open the season as the Mavericks' starting center. While he isn't as proficient a rebounder as Jordan or Tyson Chandler, he's going to need be one of the best rebounders on the team. The Mavericks were not a good rebounding team in 2014-15, and this season it should be even more difficult on the glass without the presence of Chandler.
Pachulia averaged 6.8 rebounds a season ago for the Milwaukee Bucks in just under 24 minutes per game, good for third on the squad and well above his career average of 5.6.
Pachulia also has pretty decent range for a big-man, shooting 45 percent from the floor in 2014-15, finding success out around the free throw line, and out on the right wing inside the 3-point line. He definitely favors moving to his right, and that's reflected in his shot chart.
Based on his past few seasons, Mavs fans can probably expect Pachulia to average somewhere around 7.5 points and six rebounds per game. We can probably expect him to rotate rather frequently with Samuel Dalembert depending on who else is on the court and opposing matchups, which may limit his overall productivity.
Beyond shooting and rebounding, Pachulia is also a good passer and he shows decent athleticism around the rim. His ability to spread the floor in this Mavs offense will definitely help with spacing and his passing ability should allow guys to get good looks around the rim.
What is the best case scenario for Pachulia?
In a best-case world Pachulia would revert back to his younger Atlanta-self, where he averaged around 12 points and eight rebounds for a few seasons. He obviously won't be a focal point on offense for this team, but when he has the ball in his hands he'll need to convert.
As his current 31-year-old self, if Pachulia can shoot around 47 percent from the floor and average about 10 points per game, that'd be very solid. As far as rebounding goes, if he can clean the glass at about 8-9 rebounds per game, that would be fantastic.
What is the worst case scenario for Pachulia?
In a worst-case scenario, Pachulia struggles so badly that he starts losing minutes to Dalembert, and even JaVale McGee. For this to happen, his defense and rebounding would see a dramatic falling off.
See Pachulia for yourself
This highlight reel from last season shows just how good Pachulia is in the passing game, as well as how athletic he is around the rim and in the open court. While he wasn't Dallas' first choice to be the starting center, Mavs fans should be pretty pleased with him this season.