Dallas Mavericks: Zaza and JaVale A Great Center Duo


The Dallas Mavericks have received excellent play from their center duo through the first half of the season. What is making these two under the radar players work so well together?

The Dallas Mavericks’ consolation prizes after missing out on the ‘Maverick for a Day’ have been far from the disappointment that had been expected prior to the season. In fact, the two players together have excelled in many aspects of the game.

So why are Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee finally having success after years of being overlooked and outplayed?

For starters, both of these centers have been given an opportunity in Dallas that they had not received in prior years of their respective careers.

JaVale McGee has been a wild card since the first day of his career. He has been known to make incredibly difficult plays look simple, while making incredibly simple plays look impossible.

McGee has also spent different parts of his career as a starter and as a key reserve player. He has delivered fairly well in both areas during his career but has never been an indispensable player on any team he has suited up for.

Zaza, on the other hand, has been nothing short of impressive so far this year. Coming off the bench for a majority of his career, Pachulia has been another player considered by many as expendable. In his career, Zaza had never averaged 8 rebounds a game throughout a season and had only eclipsed 10 points per game in two other seasons.

This year, Rick Carlisle has managed to maximize every minute that Pachulia is on the court. He is averaging 10.5 points and 11 rebounds per game on the season and has managed 20 double-doubles in the first half of the season. His highest total in an entire season came in 2005-06 when he managed 21.

Carlisle has to receive a majority of the credit for maximizing the efficiency from these two players. I firmly believe that Carlisle was ecstatic the day that the Mavericks made the trade to bring Zaza Pachulia over to be the starting center. He has put together a system in which Zaza can utilize his biggest strengths (strength and tenacity) to help the team.

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Coach Carlisle has also found the best way to use McGee’s strengths whenever he is in the game. Although McGee has managed to put up reasonable stats during his career, both as a starter and bench player, the best way to utilize him is as an immediate spark during a time when the team is struggling to break out of a lull on either end of the court.

The biggest thing that I have noticed between the two big men for Dallas is the complimentary roles that they play and how having each option on the roster gives us an opportunity to scheme for every team we play.

JaVale McGee can fly through the gym. He is extremely athletic and can catch and finish nearly any alley-oop thrown to him from the team. Another strength of McGee’s would be his help defense and ability to block shots. When matched up against the right lineup, that ability can be extremely important and helpful for the team.

With those great strengths for McGee, there are also some glaring weaknesses. The biggest one to me is rebounding. JaVale isn’t necessarily a terrible rebounder, but he certainly doesn’t draw the attention on the boards that an athletic machine like him should. The other weakness I see is his lack of ball control. The Mavericks will never ask their centers to handle the ball while on the floor. But, at times, the center needs to be able to catch passes, protect the ball, and get the ball back to the playmakers without causing too many turnovers.

Dec 26, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle reacts during the first half against the Chicago Bulls at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 26, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle reacts during the first half against the Chicago Bulls at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

Zaza has strengths that are complimentary to JaVale McGee in a big way. While Pachulia is nowhere near the athletic specimen that McGee is, his strengths come from his intelligence and tenacity in the game. Pachulia is an excellent rebounder on both ends of the court every second he is on the court. Zaza is also great with the ball in his hands, able to create space for other players, as well as play off the dribble fairly well.

Pachulia also has his own weaknesses, though. He can be a great defender at times but individual defense is where his strengths are. He will never be seen contesting shots at the rim and he will never be the finisher at the rim that can be so valuable at times. The strengths and weaknesses of each of these centers make them dangerous in their own ways which are complimentary to each other.

To conclude, Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee are becoming one of the better center duos in the league due to their ability to play off each other. If at any point the NBA finds a way to combine two players into one, JaVale and Zaza would be near the top of the list of best centers in the league.