ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 22: Zaza Pachulia #27 of the Atlanta Hawks headbutts Jason Richardson #23 of the Orlando Magic during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 22, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Zaza Pachulia enjoyed another solid if unspectacular season off the bench for the Atlanta Hawks. Despite nearly falling out of the rotation early, Pachulia played a big part with Atlanta's success against the Orlando Magic in the playoffs. While Zaza brings somewhat of an awkward game offensively, he pumped energy and toughness into the Hawks lineup during the playoffs. I call his offensive game awkward only because he fails to replicate his good performances with any consistency. Some nights he looks quite capable on the offensive end and others he looks rather uncomfortable with the ball in his hands and constantly looking for contact rather than focusing on finishing at the rim.
Pachulia appeared in 79 games for the Hawks this season and started seven. He averaged 15.7 minutes in those games which was up nearly two minutes a game from the previous season. Zaza's field goal percentage dropped to .461 this season but countered that by shooting much better from the free throw line hitting 75 percent from the line this season. Pachulia's value to Atlanta goes beyond his 4.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game averages.
For a Hawks team that is sometimes described as soft, Pachulia takes on the tough guy role well. He agitates opponents and isn't afraid to mix things up inside. As a back up center, he is signed through the 2013 season at a very reasonable $4.7 million next season and $5.2 million the season after that.
Interesting enough, it looked like Zaza was going to be on the move at last season's trade deadline. With the Hawks struggling at the time, rumors were rampant that Pachulia was on the verge of being traded. Early in the season he fell out of favor with coach Drew and even fell behind Josh Powell in the rotation for a stretch. However, in the end his energy, size, and sheer hustle won out and he made a distinctive impact in the playoffs for Atlanta.