For 23 games, Eric Paschall looked like a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate. The 23-year-old was thrust into duty for a Golden State Warriors team battling myriad injuries, but Paschall responded by averaging 17.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. In addition to the raw production, the former Villanova standout was shooting 50.7 percent from the floor and the flashes were bright, with Paschall topping the 20-point threshold on seven different occasions. His play inspired real discussion about “darkhorse” status in the ROY race and, as a second-round pick, that isn’t well-worn territory.
However, Paschall hit the skids in December, appearing in only 7 of Golden State’s 11 games from Dec. 9 and Dec. 31 and notably struggling when he did appear. His workload dropped to 14.7 minutes per game and Paschall’s efficiency also went into the tank. While some of that could be explained by regression, Paschall was also battling a hip injury and seemingly wasn’t himself from a physical standpoint.
“I feel those injuries were kind of a blessing in disguise in terms of my body and getting the proper rest I needed,” Paschall recently told Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. “Your rookie year is probably your longest year because right after college you’re going to pre-draft workouts, flying across the country for a workout, maybe have a back-to-back workout. Right after that, you go into training camp for summer league. Right after that, you go into training camp. So, you don’t really get a lot of time off. That was really good for me in terms of my body and having time to recover.”
Since the calendar flipped to 2020, though, the “old” Paschall is seemingly back. In 12 games this month, Paschall is averaging 12.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, and his efficiency has returned, including a 50.4 percent shooting clip. He has reached double figures in scoring in seven of the last eight games and, while the Warriors aren’t using him quite the same way as they were in the early going, Paschall has clearly responded well.
It remains to be seen as to what Paschall’s best long-term role is, particularly given that this season’s Warriors brigade isn’t representative of what many expect for 2020-21 and beyond. Still, the versatile forward checks a lot of boxes and, with the injury issues apparently behind him, it is more than reasonable to look at Paschall as someone worthy of real All-Rookie discussion if this level of production maintains in the second half.
Where does he stack up against the rest of the rookie crop this week? Let’s find out.
- R.J. Barrett – After missing the last five games with an ankle problem, Barrett is out of the public consciousness. He’s still a top-five scorer in the class so far, and that garners a mention.
- Jarrett Culver – Culver’s offensive burst from January has subsided and his numbers take a hit as a result. On the bright side, his defense has been quite good.
- De’Andre Hunter – Would you believe that Hunter leads the rookie class in minutes played? He hasn’t been fantastic by any means, but the former Virginia star is being tasked with quite a workload in Atlanta. He’s also playing better in recent days, averaging 13.7 points per game in the last seven and putting up 25 points on Sunday against Washington.
- Cam Reddish – After a ghastly offensive start, Reddish is starting to make shots, hitting 41 percent of his threes in January. In addition, he might be the best defensive wing in the class so far this season, and that helps to mitigate some of the concerns.
10) Jaxson Hayes
Hayes has been unbelievable from an efficiency perspective. If he played more, he’d be a lot higher but, when the Pelicans are at full strength, he is definitely more of a supporting piece and it hurts his overall profile.
9) Darius Garland
After a 15-game streak of scoring in double figures, Garland laid an egg on Monday in a road win over the Pistons. There have been plenty of steps forward, and that is how and why he lands here.
8) P.J. Washington
Washington struggled mightily against the Bucks in his last outing, taking away a little of shine. In the three previous games, he was playing quite well (17.7 points, 7.3 rebounds per game) and Washington continues to chug along with a real All-Rookie case. He’s been efficient and productive, and it would be difficult to ask for much more.
7) Michael Porter Jr.
Because of his late start, it seems difficult to believe that Porter could really crash the ROY party. He’s been incredibly good recently, though, in averaging 16.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per game in the last seven games. For good measure, he is shooting 50 percent from the floor and a blistering 53 percent from three in that small sample.
6) Tyler Herro
After an injury and a couple of games that weren’t exactly impactful, Herro bounced back this week. He averaged 19 points per game in a trio of performances and, for the season, the former Kentucky guard is cruising toward 40 percent from three-point range. Oh, and he’s doing it all on a very good basketball team.
5) Eric Paschall
It will be interesting to see how Paschall continues to play and, if he keeps up his recent showing, how much attention he receives for it.
4) Brandon Clarke
With his rookie teammate taking the majority of the attention (and rightly so), Clarke is flying under the radar. It still has to be noted that the former Gonzaga star leads the entire rookie class in multiple advanced metrics, with 68 percent true shooting and the most rebounds (231) of any rookie. That seems like a good starting point.
3) Kendrick Nunn
Nunn has missed the last two games with an Achilles issue but, prior to that, he was on quite a run. In his last nine games, the talented guard is averaging 19.0 points and shooting 54.5 percent from the floor and 41.3 percent from three. We’ve seen some up-and-down performances from Nunn this season, but his season-long profile is strong.
2) Zion Williamson
Ok, it’s probably an overreaction to have Williamson here after only three games when other rookies (including our No. 1) have been on the floor for 40-plus contests. With that out of the way, Zion has been unbelievable. He is averaging 19.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per game in only 22.3 (!) minutes and the No. 1 overall pick has a 67 percent true shooting to boot. His defense has been uneven but, well, this is the player that everyone expected to see. If Williamson can keep up this kind of pace while increasing his minutes load, the ROY race could actually get interesting by the end of the year.
1) Ja Morant
For a brief moment against the Celtics this week, Morant actually resembled a rookie. He scored only two points in a blowout loss and the Grizzlies flailed as a result. The lead guard bounced back in a big way, though, leading Memphis to two more victories and averaging 19.5 points and 10.0 assists per game in the process. He’s still the leader in the clubhouse and it’s not close at this very moment.