The intangible ways Eric Paschall and Hassan Whiteside are impacting the game
The two newcomers have proven valuable additions to the roster and are making a difference for the 3-0 Jazz. You just may not see it in the box scores
Don’t get me wrong, I love statsheet and advanced box scores and metrics as much as the next basketball nerd, but I’m also a big believer in the value of the harder to pinpoint, more intangible aspects of the game.
It’s a small sample size, being just three games into the 2021-22 season, but there’s already reason to be happy about what the Jazz’s offseason acquisitions have brought to the team.
Take Tuesday night’s Jazz win over the Denver Nuggets for example. Paschall wasn’t even certain he’d be able to play that night. After thinking he was getting a pimple on his left cheek, he woke up on Tuesday with half of his face swollen because of an infection and was listed as questionable.
But, after some treatment the swelling subsided enough for Paschall to comfortably play. He recorded zero points during his 14 minutes, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Defensively, the 6-foot-6 forward adds strength and versatility to the Jazz roster and was able to stay in front of his man and slow down the Nuggets’ offense. But after the game, Jazz coach Quin Snyder pointed to the simplicity of Paschall working within the Jazz’s offense.
“He moved the ball as much as anything,” he said. “You can feel him competing, but something as simple as not letting the ball stick, driving into the lane and kicking it out to a shooter — those are simple plays but those are plays that if we make, we’re hard to guard. And he made them.”
It does sound really simple, but for a newcomer to Snyder’s system it can be easy to just fall into isolation offense, something that Paschall has avoided to this point.
It’s all even more impressive when you consider that he hasn’t exactly known what his role would be, he isn’t getting big minutes, and that during his time with the Jazz he’s dislocated a finger the day before the first game of the season, then dealt with the random facial infection ahead of the third game.
“He’s had a lot of (expletive) happen to him,” Rudy Gobert said of Paschall. “But he’s shown up. He’s shown up at every practice and every game. I love how he brings the intensity every single second. It’s contagious when you have guys that embrace every challenge and push their teammates to be better.”
The same has been said by the players and Snyder about Whiteside, who has played really important minutes for the Jazz as Gobert’s backup.
“He’s doing the things that help us win,” Snyder said. “He’s impacting the game in a real way. That’s what we’re seeing.”
Again, you could look at a box score and see that Whiteside has graded out with an impressive plus-minus through the first three games, or that he’s rebounded in the double digits, but what’s stood out the most has been the grit he provides to the second unit.
The Sacramento Kings surprised the Jazz a little on Friday with their physicality. Whiteside, playing against his former team, pushed back when he was on the floor and gave the Jazz a boost in an area that will never show up on the stat sheet.
On Tuesday against Denver, Whiteside was playing impressively. Then, in the fourth quarter, he and Nuggets forward JaMychal Green were jawing at one another under the basket and then jawing turned to pushing. Whiteside didn’t back down.
Green and Whiteside both ended up getting ejected after a short confrontation, but it seemed to light a bit of a fire for the rest of the team.
“He adds a level of toughness, as you saw tonight,” Donovan Mitchell said. “Plays like that kind of define who we’re going to be. It was good for him and it was good for us.”
Sure, it’s early in the season, but that only means that Paschall and Whiteside will gain more confidence and comfort with the Jazz as the season progresses. But for now, they’ve exceeded expectations and been a welcome addition to the Jazz roster.