Flying Under the Radar: Zaza Pachulia

Zaza Pachulia (John Amis/AP)

Four years ago, the Orlando Magic drafted Zaza Pachulia, a 6'11", 280 lb. center from Europe. Now in his fifth NBA season, Pachulia is playing for the Atlanta Hawks and has developed into a tough-nosed post player who is willing to mix it up with anyone in the NBA.

Orlando has been searching for a player who fits this description to mesh with star Dwight Howard, and now the Magic will see what they let go when Pachulia faces them on Monday.

Pachulia was left unprotected by Orlando in 2004 expansion draft, and was selected by the Charlotte Bobcats. Pachulia was then traded to Milwaukee and then signed with the Hawks the following season in 2005. It was in Atlanta that Pachulia established himself as one of the most gritty post players in the league.

In 2005, Pachulia started 78 games for Atlanta and averaged an impressive 11 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. In 2006, Pachulia duplicated his success and averaged 12 and 7, while also blocking .5 shots a game.

Pachulia has fallen out of the lineup at times this season and hasn't been as effective, but he is still a force whenever he is on the floor. Pachulia thrives down low because of his desire and determination to stop opposing players. With such imposing size, Pachulia carves out room with his body and grabs down rebounds with ease. Pachulia is also an excellent one-on-one defender and is known to take charges.

Where Pachulia's stock drops is on the offensive end of the court. He lacks little go-to moves in the post and doesn't have a consistent jump-shot either. A majority of his points come from put-backs, as he averages nearly 2 offensive rebounds a game.

Pachulia has started just five games this season in favor of the younger Al Horford. Despite his demotion to the bench, Pachulia still brings energy every time he gets on the floor, and is averaging nearly 5 points and 4 rebounds on the season.

While Pachulia has seen his playing time drop this season, he is still considered one of the game's better bruisers. Atlanta may not have placed much value on Pachulia this season, but it is likely that the Magic wish they had him again. Orlando sorely needs another post player, especially one that likes to play physically. To make matters worse, it is overachieving, high-energy big men who traditionally give the Magic trouble, and Pachulia fits this description perfectly. Pachulia's playing time has been sporadic this season, but he will definitely see the court because Atlanta will need a host of big bodies to slow down Howard. Pachulia can frustrate defenders with his nagging defense, and the Magic must put a body on Pachulia at all times and keep him off the glass. Orlando's best bet to stop him is either to attack him with Howard in hopes of getting him in foul trouble, or to bring in Brian Cook to suck Pachulia away from the basket and to the perimeter.

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