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2021 Utah Jazz Player Profile: Eric Paschall

In Utah, Paschall might finally get opportunity to play the ‘Draymond Role’

Eric Paschall and Draymond Green
Drawing comparisons to Green since his days at Villanova, Eric Paschall might finally get the opportunity to fit into that role with the Jazz.
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

When the Jazz acquired Eric Paschall over the summer from Golden State for a protected 2026 second round draft pick—the NBA trade equivalent of nothing (seriously, not even a bag of beans), much was made of the reunion of AAU teammates and childhood friends Paschall and Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell. The two played together and even shared rides to practice at an early age. But we’ve seen the friendship reunion story before in the NBA, and the on-court substance rarely, if ever, lives up to the hype. Remember how John Wall and Demarcus Cousins’ reunion was supposed to reinvigorate both of their careers? Or how the Utah Jazz carried Jeremy Evans on its roster for four seasons to help beef up Gordon Hayward’s Subway Rewards card points?

Utah Jazz v Golden State Warriors
Childhood friends Paschall and Mitchell reunite as teammates in Utah
Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

While Jazz brass was certainly aware of the longtime friendship between Paschall and Mitchell, that was likely only a deal sweetener. Acquiring a player with Paschall’s makeup of size, skill, youth, and versatility for a protected second round pick was a heist. That Paschall should keep the franchise cornerstone in good spirits is simply a bonus.

How Does Paschall fit?

At 24 years old, having had a four year college career and two years of NBA experience, Paschall is still a relatively moldable project. Coming out of Villanova, he was already earning comparisons to his future teammate Draymond Green because of his similar size & build, his versatile offensive skillset, and defensive switchability. Obviously the Green comparison only grew when Golden State selected Paschall early in the second round, just as it had done Green seven years prior.

Yet, oddly enough, while Paschall has validated the Draymond Green comparison in flashes, he has not had the opportunity to play in the same role that unlocks Green’s complementary skillset. Let’s take a look.

First, let’s address the defensive side of the ball. Paschall has good instincts, and at 6’7” and 255lbs, with a 6’11” wingspan, is built for modern NBA defenses. His Defended Percentage Points Differential (the shooting percentage a player holds their opponent to compared to average) was -4.0 last season, per Cleaning the Glass, good enough for 23rd in the NBA among players who played at least 39 games.

He is not, however, all that comparable to 6x All-Defensive team and former DPOY Draymond Green, who is a generational defensive talent. That’s not a knock on Paschall, who is a more than capable utility defender who should be a significant upgrade to the Jazz defense over Juwan Morgan or Georges Niang.

On the offense, under Head Coach Quin Snyder, Paschall should get the opportunity to unlock the Swiss Army Knife skillset that compliments his teammates and earned him the Draymond Green comparisons.

‘The Draymond Role’

It’s a term that has become metonymic for modern basketball. It’s essentially this: a playmaking power forward, who can shoot at least adequately from 3-point range, facilitate the offense, and switch onto multiple positions defensively. Draymond is an elite talent, but the reason we’ve yet to see a player perfect that role as well as he has is as much about his teammates as it is about him. And while Warriors fans expected Paschall to fit into Green’s role as a backup, and maybe even supplant Green himself one day, Golden State’s depleted roster never yielded that opportunity.

Green is a basketball genius on both sides of the floor. On offense, his ability to recognize and leverage angles to create an advantage for his team is uncanny. But what has made him special in the “Draymond Green Role”—what has unlocked the Warrior’s juggernaut offense—is Green’s ability to act as the release valve facilitator to Steph Curry double-teams.

We’ve seen it so many times it’s become almost as fabled as the Stockton-Malone pick & roll. Draymond sets the ballscreen for Curry who draws the double team, Curry drops it off to Draymond who then commands the center of the floor with a 4 on 3 advantage. He attacks the basket, draws a help defender from the corner, weak-side wing, or defending big from the dunker spot to facilitate a wide-open three-pointer or a lob to Looney, McGee, Chriss, Bell, or whatever scrapheap Center the Warriors happen to be playing.

But, comparison aside, In two seasons with the Warriors, Paschall hasn’t had the chance to play in that role. Curry missed nearly all of the 2019-20 season, leaving Alec Burks and D’angelo Russell as Golden State’s primary facilitators. It wouldn’t have mattered how good of a screener, passer, or floor-spacer Paschall was that season, opposing defenses were just not blowing up assignments to defend any Warrior guard. Additionally, most of Paschall’s minutes came at the small forward position with Draymond at the four and Willie Cauley-Stein at the five. He was mostly relegated to poorly-spaced spot-up opportunities, per NBA Stats possession data.

Last season, a healthy Curry meant Paschall might finally get to benefit from the same kinds of in-game situations that Draymond does. But due to a lack of depth, Paschall was shoehorned into an ill-fitting back-up center role with bad role players. He was forced to play the bulk of his minutes with lineups that fell somewhere between total dumpster fire and poopy diaper.

Of the roughly 1300 possessions he played last season, only 425, or about ⅓, came with Steph Curry on the floor. In those, the Warriors were awesome offensively, averaging 120 points per possession, per Cleaning The Glass. That combination ranked in the 94th percentile of all offensive lineups.

Granted, Curry is a future hall-of-famer, whose shooting and gravity benefit any teammate. But in the limited sample Paschall did play with Curry, the team excelled. The other sweet-shooting guard who would have opened things up for Paschall was Klay Thompson, who hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since 2018-19, when Paschall was still in college.

In the lineup Paschall appeared most last season, he played center with Brad Wannamaker, Damion Lee, Kent Bazemore, and Andrew Wiggins (aspirin… I need aspirin...). In that lineup, Paschall anchored an impressive defense that squoze out a positive net-rating differential, despite the brick-laying chuckers that surrounded him.

2021 Play-In Tournament - Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors
After two season with Golden State, Paschall looks to earn a rotation spot with a title contender
Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Space to Grow

With the Jazz, Paschall will likely always share the floor with at least one of Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley, Joe Ingles, or Jordan Clarkson. The combination of gravity created by Utah’s elite-shooting guards, and the lob threats posed by Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside will create the perfect eco-system for Paschall to feast on defenses the way Draymond does.

Now, let’s be clear about our expectations. While Paschall does have a similar skillset to Green and should get the opportunity to create offense the way Green has with Golden State, I’m not suggesting Paschall will be as good as Draymond, who is a lock for the Hall of Fame already. But can he be 70%? 85%? If he can, he will be a significant addition to a Jazz team that has suffered from a lack of versatility in the postseason.

Given the front office shakeup this summer, and that owners Ryan and Ashley Smith have spent heavily into the luxury tax, it’s clear the Jazz expects to outperform its own historic success last season. Paschall will be vying for minutes in an all-of-the-sudden crowded frontcourt rotation, and there won’t likely be a lot of in-game opportunities for Quin to experiment with him.

But we know Paschall’s a capable defender and passer. He’s comfortable in the pick & roll as both the ball-handler and screener. He’s not a great shooter, but should get plenty of opportunity to develop his shot in Quin Snyder’s “shoot the fucking ball” offense. And unless Rudy Gay at 35, is still good enough to command the bulk of the backup power forward minutes, Paschall should get the opportunity to play alongside a heliocentric guard and a traditional lob-threat big.

In Utah, Eric Paschall might finally get the chance to play the “Draymond Role.”