The draft day trade of Jrue Holliday-for-Nerlens Noel between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Philadelphia 76ers didn’t involve any Maryland Terrapins in the NBA, and yet it had everything to do with the best pro Terp. Acquiring yet another point guard for the Pelicans puts former Maryland great Greivis Vasquez wedged firmly between a rock and a hard place on the Pelicans roster.
Instead of being the Pelicans point guard of the future after having a breakout season last year, Vasquez finds himself the odd-man out on a roster with a surplus of guards. The Pelicans now have on their roster Holliday (who previously started for the 76ers), Vasquez, Austin Rivers (their first round pick in last year’s draft), and Eric Gordon, which means someone isn’t going to be getting many minutes. The most likely scenario that will play out is Greivis being traded despite finishing 3rd in the NBA in assists last season.
Holliday presumably takes over the point guard job mostly due to teams being reluctant to trade for a player then toss him on the bench. Whether he provides a significant upgrade over Vasquez is a push bet, at best. If you’re comparing the two based on advanced statistics, the evidence suggests they’re remarkably similar players. Vasquez and Holliday both have near identical PER’s, incredibly similar true shooting %’s, and raw assist numbers. But don’t let the similarities fool you, Greivis is a pass first point guard, and a decidedly better assist man than Jrue Holliday, who ventures far more into the combo-guard range.
Vasquez might not be the scorer that Holliday is, but his usage rate is considerably lower as his primary objective within the Pelicans offense isn’t hoisting shots. Holliday needs the ball in his hands to be an effective player, which is why his usage rate is 15th in the NBA. Of those 15 guys, though, Jrue Holiday has the third-worst PER of anyone in that group. Vasquez on the other hand, ranks 33rd. And even though Vasquez game gels way more with another very high usage guard in Eric Gordon (who was 7th in the NBA last year) than Holliday probably will, he still isn’t going to get that job.
And the chances of Vasquez, who can play both guard positions, starting at shooting guard are just as unlikely with
Eric Gordon’s contract Eric Gordon as the definitive starter. I’m not sure if New Orleans noticed recently, but Eric Gordon post-knee injuries is a shade of the Eric Gordon who was absolutely dominant with the Clippers. That’s not to say Gordon isn’t going to get healthy and dominant again, but they would be wise to limit his minutes a bit. New Orleans might consider keeping Vasquez as an insurance policy in case Gordon experiences any complications in that balky knee.
Then there is of course Austin Rivers, who was their surprise seventh pick overall in last year’s draft. New Orleans has outwardly expressed that they haven’t given up on Rivers, who was downright terrible for most of last season, and they’d be stupid to do so. Rivers was and is their presumed point guard of the future, so his minute allocation is somewhat set already. He is likely to backup Holliday, while also providing spot duty as Gordon’s reserve as well. Even if Rivers had the second worst PER of all qualified rookies, the Pelicans want badly for him to pan out.
So that leaves Vasquez with no real home as a starter. The Pelicans deemed his defensive shortcomings too much of a liability as a long term starter, and heading into a season where he will soon be due for a big pay pump, they severely limited his opportunity to further showcase his skills. But all is not lost for Vasquez, as he still has plenty of options. New Orleans is likely to see what he can fetch on the open market in exchange for a true two-guard. The Kings have recently been thrown into the conversation given their gluttony at the guard position and a desire to dump Tyreke Evans. There will be plenty more suitors looking to acquire his talents.
Worst case scenario? Vasquez rides the pine and provides limited minutes on the bench in a similar fashion to what he did in Memphis for his first two years in the NBA. That actually might not be the worst thing for him, because it will be tougher for future teams to get a read on his production when he’s playing less minutes. When he goes up for a contract, he can simply point to last season and say, “Hey, this is what I can do as a starter!” It’ll also let him learn from the bench, and add a little more seasoning onto his already improving game.
Still, for a player who had such a breakout season like Greivis, it’s hard not to be a little disheartened by the news.