Thursday afternoon the NBA released the first returns on fan voting for next month’s NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans, and in many instances there was no surprise over the results. There was one noteworthy exception however: Golden State Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who as of Thursday morning was second among Western Conference front court players with 439,675 votes.
Here’s what you need to know about Pachulia, his career and family, and the NBA All-Star Game voting process.
1. Pachulia Joined the Warriors as a Free Agent in July
With Golden State making the biggest move of the summer by signing Kevin Durant, the economics of the situation meant that the franchise had to bid farewell to starters Harrison Barnes (free agent signing by Dallas) and Andrew Bogut (via trade to Dallas). With Bogut being the team’s primary rim protector during his time with the Warriors, general manager Bob Myers looked to fill that void by signing Pachulia.
The two sides agreed to a one-year, $2.9 million deal, with Pachulia turning down more lucrative offers from other franchises to sign with the Warriors. He explained the reason for his decision to Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News last September.
“A pretty significant amount,” Pachulia said when asked the exact dollar amount he left on the table. “Don’t want to get into the details. But a pretty significant amount. I’ll be a free agent next year, so we’ll see again. But first of all, I’m not thinking about next year. I’m all in on this year. That’s the reason why I sacrificed financially. It’s not because of next summer. It’s because of this season.”
2. Pachulia’s Averaging 5.2 Points and 5.8 Rebounds Per Game
Given the presence of Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green in the starting lineup, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr really doesn’t need much scoring from Pachulia. The 14-year veteran is currently averaging 5.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game, playing an average of 17.7 minutes per night. Pachulia isn’t the rim protector that Bogut was at the center position, but he’s been a good positional defender.
Yet without Bogut, the Warriors currently lead the NBA with an average of 6.2 blocks per game with Durant (1.6 bpg) and Green (1.2 bpg) combining for just under half of those blocked shots. Golden State is also fourth in the NBA in two-point percentage defense, with opponents shooting 49.1 percent inside of the three-point line.
3. Pachulia Has Played for Five NBA Franchises in 14 NBA Seasons
This is Pachulia’s 14th season in the NBA, with his career in the league beginning in 2003 with the Orlando Magic. Drafted 42nd overall by the Orlando Magic in the 2003 NBA Draft, Pachulia averaged 3.3 points and 2.9 rebounds in just over 11 minutes per game as a rookie (59 appearances). After that season Pachulia was left unprotected for the then-Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets) expansion draft, with the Bobcats selecting him but sending Pachulia to Milwaukee.
After one season in Milwaukee, Pachulia found stability in Atlanta. Pachulia averaged double figures in scoring in each of his first two seasons in Atlanta, and in eight seasons with the franchise he averaged 7.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. In the summer of 2013 Pachulia agreed to a three-year, $16 million deal with the Bucks, where he spent two season before being traded to Dallas ahead of the 2015-16 campaign.
4. A Native of Georgia, Pachulia Began His Professional Career in Turkey
Pachulia was born Zaur Pachulia in Tbilisi, Georgia on February 10, 1984, with his first name being legally changed to Zaza. And according to the Dallas Morning News, Pachulia was 6-foot-8 at just 13 years of age. At the age of 15 Pachulia joined the Turkish club Ülkerspor in 1999, where he played four seasons before making the move stateside to play in the NBA.
Pachulia, who according to Spotrac has earned more than $50 million in his NBA career, and wife Tika have three children, two sons (Davit and Saba) and one daughter (Miriam).
5. The NBA Changed the All-Star Game Voting Setup Last Month
In mid-December, the NBA announced a significant change to the way in which starting lineups for the All-Star Game are determined. Under the new rules the fan vote, with the first returns released Thursday, counts for 50 percent of the total vote with players and media votes counting for 25 percent apiece. The change, which went into effect immediately, ended the days when the fan vote was all that was used to determine the starting lineups for the All-Star Game.
But that hasn’t stopped some from reacting to the news that Pachulia is ranked as high as he is among Western Conference front court players. The Sacramento Kings sent out a tweet in support of their center DeMarcus Cousins, who was sixth in the voting results released Thursday.