Player Review: Jeff Pendergraph
by Mark Montieth | firstname.lastname@example.org
June 24, 2013, 10:30 AM
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Years Pro: 3
Status: Free agent. Received about $850,000 last season in the second year of a two-year contract.
Key Stats: Averaged 3.9 points on 48 percent shooting while playing in 37 games. Averaged 10.2 points in games in which he played 17 minutes or more.
For the first half of the season, Jeff Pendergraph was the hype man, the guy who led the players-only huddle on the court following pre-game introductions and the guy who stood in the back hallway to bump fists with his teammates as they walked to the locker room at halftime or after the game. He was barely more of a factor for the Pacers during games than the Pacemates.
But, it turned out he could play, too.
Pendergraph was third in line at the power forward position, playing behind David West and Tyler Hansbrough. It took a couple of West injuries – a scratched eyeball in February and then a lower back strain in March – for Pendergraph to get the opportunity coach Frank Vogel thought he deserved.
“When he gets an opportunity to play extended minutes, everybody is going to see how good Jeff Pendergraph really is,” Vogel said early in the season.
Pendergraph finally got that chance on Feb. 11, when West suffered the scratched cornea against Brooklyn, courtesy of Brook Lopez. That bumped Pendergraph up to the No. 2 power forward, a promotion repeated when West had to sit out with his back trouble in March.
Pendergraph wound up playing 10 or more minutes in 13 regular season games, and usually produced. In the 10 games in which he played 17 or more minutes, he averaged 10.2 points on 56 percent shooting, hit all 12 foul shots and 2-of-4 3-pointers. He was a non-factor in the playoffs other than Game 2 against Altanta, when he had eight points and seven rebounds in 15 minutes.
Those performances rebutted one of the season's best unintentional jokes. When Paul George received his trophy after being voted the NBA's Most Improved Player, he thanked his teammates for their help in making it happen – “all the way down to Pendergraph.” Everyone, Pendergraph included, got a laugh out of that one.
Pendergraph likely will be smiling this summer when free agency begins. He played well enough to draw a contract offer from someone, and it could be the Pacers. His status could depend on what happens with Hansbrough, a restricted free agent. If Hansbrough attracts an offer too rich for the Pacers' salary cap blood, they could let him go, re-sign Pendergraph and let him back up West.
It wouldn't be a bad thing, necessarily. Pendergraph, at 6-9, is a perimeter scoring threat, rebounds his position well enough, and can run the floor. His attitude is great, but he doesn't want to spend another season of his career contributing more hype than substance.
“I'm here for a reason,” he said early in the season, before the serious playing opportunities came. “I can play. It's just a matter of time before I can show it.”
He eventually got his chance, and he'll likely get more – with the Pacers, or someone else.
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