Last year the Grizzlies had their share of issues, but no problem hurt them more than the lack of a backup point guard. Mike Conley was more than capable of running the first team offense, but once he left the court, things got chaotic pretty quickly. Jeremy Pargo, Josh Selby, and Gilbert Arenas all tried running the point with limited success. Who knows how much further this team could’ve gotten with a little more depth at the 1.
Admittedly, things got a bit better in the offseason. Selby looked much-improved in Summer League play, and the acquisition of Jerryd Bayless should help immensely. Still, the Grizz never would’ve wound up in this pickle int he first place if they had just held onto Greivis Vasquez.
Vasquez was taken by Memphis in the second round of the 2010 draft. he was coming off an amazing collegiate career at Maryland where he routinely put up strong numbers, and tormented every other team in the ACC. Still, his age made people a bit nervous about him, even thought the talent was obviously there.
Vasquez was admittedly rather quiet in his first and only season as a Grizzly. He averaged 3.6 points and 2.2 minutes per game in limited time (about 12 minutes per game). Not horrible, but nothing to write home about either. Where he really shined in his sole season in Memphis was the playoffs. the raw numbers aren’t too different: 4.3 points, and 1.9 assists, but what changed was how he accumulated them. Vasquez became much much efficient, averaging .154 win shares per 48 minutes (compared to .040 int he regular season). he also proved to have ice water in his veins, nailing several key shots, including a huge three in the infamous triple-OT loss in Game 4 of the Thunder series. By the time the Grizzlies’ playoff run was over, Vasquez had clearly established himself as an extremely valuable player.
And yet, the Grizzlies still decided to trade him just before 2011-12 season. he was sent to the Hornets in exchange for Quincy Pondexter. Now, I’ll admit that Pondexter is useful, and as the season went on, I actually became a fan of the guy. He’s a versatile bench player, who is capable of playing the 2 and the 3. Certainly not a bad player to have.
But when you look at what Vasquez did for New Orleans last season, it’s hard not to think the Grizzlies got the raw end of the deal. Vasquez didn’t get much hype, mostly because the Hornets weren’t very good, but he evolved in a big way last season. When Jarrett Jack went down, and Vasquez entered the starting lineup, he quickly shined, proving himself more than capable of running an offense of extended amounts of time.
His most impressive moment came against Steve Nash and the phoenix Suns, where he put up an eye-popping 20-6-12, capitalizing on the weak defense of the aging Nash. Amazingly, this wasn’t even a game where he started. Jack was healthy that night and got the start, but Vasquez thoroughly outshined him. By the time the season was over, Vasquez was obviously a rotation player, and the Hornets had to wonder if he was their best point guard. His value was too obvious to ignore.
Now, he might get a chance to be the Hornets starter. Jack was traded to the Golden State Warriors, leaving Vasquez as the only true point guard on the Hornets roster. Austin Rivers is a combo guard, and they might put him at the 1, but Vasquez has a much better skill set for it. If Monty Williams looks at the situation logically, he’ll start Vazquez, and utilize Rivers in a 6th man role.
In the mean time, the Grizzlies are moving on without him. Bayless will likely be the backup point guard, while Selby, and Tony Wroten will battle for whatever minutes they can get. It’s a better situation than last year, for sure. But looking at what Vasquez has proven himself capable, it’s natural to wonder what the Grizzlies could’ve done if they had kept him. Bayless is a great scorer, but Vasquez is more of a true point guard, and that would’ve added crucial balance to the Grizzlies second unit. Will Vasquez shine in new Orleans? Will Bayless be the key to success for Memphis next year? We’ll find out in due time. For now, though, it’s certainly interesting to thing about what could’ve been if the front office hadn’t pulle dthe trigger on Vasquez so fast.