Player Review 2012: Jeff Pendergraph

by Jeff Tzucker

Conrad Brunner Caught in the Web banner headline

Player Analysis: Jeff Pendergraph

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive ||

June 15, 2012

When it comes to the combination of bad luck and bad timing, Jeff Pendergraph can tell you some stories.

Every time he has appeared on the verge of a positive step in his NBA career, a stunningly ill-timed injury has come along to sidetrack his progress.

A second-round pick of Portland out of Arizona State in 2009, Pendergraph wound up missing his first training camp and two months of the regular season when he needed hip surgery in late September -- just before camp opened.

Though he had to play a lot of catch-up, Pendergraph wound up playing semi-regularly the rest of his rookie season, averaging 10.4 minutes, 2.7 points, 2.5 rebounds and shooting .662 from the field. In his final regular-season game, he started and racked up a career-high 23 points on 11 of 15 shooting against Golden State.

Just when it appeared he was ready to launch into his second season, Pendergraph was injured again, this time tearing the ACL in his right knee in a preseason game. He needed season-ending surgery and was waived.

After spending the 2010-11 season in recovery and rehab, Pendergraph got a golden opportunity, signing a two-year contract with the Pacers, a team that could groom him to take over as the backup center when Jeff Foster retired.

Only Pendergraph sprained his right knee in one of his first practices, missed the abbreviated training camp and preseason and saw his role evaporate when the Pacers traded for Lou Amundson.

Pendergraph played in 20 games, averaging 5.3 minutes, 1.7 points and 1.7 rebounds. His biggest highlight came on April 23 when he started against the Pistons and produced 10 points and seven rebounds in 18.3 minutes.

The Pacers remain high on Pendergraph's ability. He has the size, strength, athleticism and energy to be an important role-player off the bench.

What he has not had is one healthy training camp in the NBA.

"He's just got to get an opportunity," Coach Frank Vogel said. "He has the motor to succeed, the athleticism to succeed, the physicality to succeed. He's just got to find his niche.

"I don't think he's going to be the type of guy to get a high volume of low-post touches but he's got to be a great finisher around the basket with duck-ins, being able to make plays at the rim not just scoring the ball but making interior passes, inside-out passes. It's part of our system of trying to be a great passing team. Those are areas we really think improve and we're looking forward to having him in summer league."

A high school teammate of Darren Collison at Etiwanda (Calif.) High, Pendergraph was Arizona State's all-time leading rebounder and set school records for games (126) and starts (120). As a senior he led the nation in field goal percentage (.660) and averaged 14.5 points and 8.2 rebounds.

He shoots a high percentage not because he is a marksman but because he generally only takes high-percentage shots -- dunks, put-backs and layups. He has explosive jumping ability and plays with high intensity.

Clearly, there a lot of things to like about his game and potential -- if he can stay healthy.

Pendergraph will get all the playing time he can handle in the Orlando Pro Summer League next month and needs to maximize that opportunity. Foster retired during the season. The other two backup centers, Amundson and Kyrylo Fesenko, are free agents.

Opportunity awaits this talented young big man who is overdue for some good luck.

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