Utah Jazz: How Eric Paschall can earn more minutes this year

Utah Jazz forward Eric Paschall (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz forward Eric Paschall (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Utah Jazz made some solid, under-the-radar acquisitions in free agency this off-season, including veterans Rudy Gay and Hassan Whiteside. For a veteran team in the thick of championship contention, the acquisition of these key role players was unsurprising. The Jazz’s decision to trade for Eric Paschall at the cost of a future protected second-round pick, however, was a little more unexpected.

Paschall is a rare get for a team in Utah’s position: a quality young player with upside. However, the question remains: how will Paschall get regular minutes in Quin Snyder’s rotation throughout the 2021-22 season? Especially considering the positional overlap he shares with Gay?

One obvious route towards gaining Snyder’s trust would be for Paschall to improve upon his questionable defense.

Utah Jazz rotation: Eric Paschall vs Rudy Gay on defense

Last season, Gay posted a sturdy -0.2 Defensive Box Plus/Minus (DBPM) as a member of the San Antonio Spurs. While that figure didn’t earn him any Defensive Player of the Year consideration, it’s a solid, reliable mark. Meanwhile, Paschall’s DBPM was a less impressive -1.5.

It seems likely that Gay was brought onboard primarily for his ability to close-out 3-point attempts as a small ball 5, something the Utah Jazz were sorely lacking against the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2020-21 Western Conference semi-finals. Still, Paschall actually graded out as the superior offensive player throughout the 2020-21 NBA season, as made evident by his superior Offensive Rating (106 vs Gay’s 103).

Ten years Gay’s junior at 24, Paschall must make it a personal goal to earn a superior position in Snyder’s rotation. If he can make the necessary adjustments to improve his defense, then he has the potential to leapfrog Rudy Gay in the Utah Jazz’s depth chart.

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Otherwise, he may spend more time on the bench than he’s comfortable with this season.