Meet the Dallas Mavericks Double-Double Machine


The Dallas Mavericks quietly traded for center Zaza Pachulia this summer and he’s starting to make some real noise.

This summer didn’t exactly go as the Dallas Mavericks were hoping. After flushing a sizable portion of their roster, they had their eyes set on a certain free agnet center that would command a max contract. Then after failing to do so, the Mavs went in crisis control and immediately acquired the unassuming Zaza Pachulia, and the rest is history…

It was hard to get excited for the addition of Pachulia. After all, only hours before the signing, Mavs Nation thought they had DeAndre Jordan locked up. The disappointment was only intensified after looking at Zaza’s age and modest career numbers. never mind the fact he’s following fan favorite, Tyson Chandler at center.

25 games into the 2015-16 season, Zaza Pachulia is averaging 10.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. The double-double collecting big man is ranked #3 in the NBA following only Russell Westbrook and Andre Drummond in double-doubles. What’s even more impressive is that he does it while averaging six minutes less per game.

When Zaza first signed with the Dallas Mavericks he was declared an offensive specialist who’s a liability on defense and on the boards. This seemed like a fair assessment since in his previous eleven years in the NBA the 6’11” center has never averaged more than 0.5 blocks or 7.9 rebounds.

To say Zaza has surpassed his expectations is massive understatement. This season, Zaza is posting career highs in rebounding and field goal percentage. The Mavs score 99.5 points per 100 possessions with Zaza off the court and 105.1 per 100 possessions with him on the court. On the defensive side, the Mavs are allowing 101.3 points per 100 with Zaza on the court and 102.4 per with him off the court.

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In other words, he’s not quite the defensive liability we thought when he first signed with the Dallas Mavericks.

"“I think he’s a better defender and rebounder than I thought,” Dirk Nowitzki said as reported by ST Dwain Price. “Obviously he was always a bench guy basically his entire career and in tough moments you don’t really get to see a guy as much. [He’s] a tough rebounder, a tough defender, and on the offensive end he can make plays off the dribble for a big guy.”"

It’s difficult to pin point exactly how Zaza is having so much success rebounding and defending this season, as SBNation’s Mike Prada pointed out earlier this month, the dude can’t jump. But as he also notes, Pachulia is a smart player that puts himself in position to succeed. He makes as few steps and defensive slides as possible and that makes up for speed deficiency.

Zaza avoids silly fouls and contests shots by playing angles and playing the percenatges. He’s not going to make highlight reels like DeAndre Jordan but he’s not going to make as many preventable mistakes either.

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It’s important to note that in order for Zaza to succeed like he is this season, he needs strong defensive play around him. And that isn’t always an easy thing with Dirk Nowitzki on the court. But the defense Wesley Matthews and Deron Williams has been huge and as Chandler Parsons starts picking up the minutes, things will improve even more around the double-double bargain at center.

Speaking of bargain…

Zaza was acquired by the Mavericks for a second round pick and is earning a very modest $5.2M in the last year of his deal (according to Spotrac). That almost redefines bargain considering th market value for a double-double producing big man in the league is almost always a max-level contract.

Next: Wesley Matthews is Back in a Big Way

Even with an increased workload going to JaVale McGee in coming months, there is absolutely no reason to think Zaza Pachulia cannot continue his success with the Dallas Mavericks this season.