Pelicans Offseason Update: Greivis Vasquez

Leading up to the 2013 NBA Draft on June 27, will provide a player-by-player examination of the New Orleans Pelicans, with input from various sources. We’ll review the 2012-13 campaign of each New Orleans player who appeared in at least half of the team’s games, while also looking ahead to the inaugural 2013-14 Pelicans season. continues its offseason updates by profiling Greivis Vasquez, who moved into the starting lineup at point guard and emerged as a bona fide NBA Most Improved Player candidate:

Greivis Vasquez
Key averages: 13.9 points, 9.0 assists, 4.3 rebounds in 78 games (78 starts)

As a result of the 2012 offseason trade of previous New Orleans starter Jarrett Jack, the path was cleared for Vasquez to be a team’s No. 1 point guard for the first time in his three-year NBA career. The native of Venezuela took full advantage of his opportunity, immediately showing noticeable progress in shooting and passing ability. The 6-foot-6, 211-pounder opened the regular season with 13 assists in a narrow Oct. 31 defeat to San Antonio, a sign of things to come. Vasquez went on to finish 2012-13 ranked third among all players in assist average, while leading the NBA in total assists (704, which was 26 more than Chris Paul’s tally in eight fewer games). Although Vasquez ultimately did not win the league’s Most Improved Player award, the fact that he placed second in voting to uber-talented Indiana swingman Paul George spoke volumes about the kind of year it was for the University of Maryland product. He more than doubled his previous career averages in scoring (13.9, up from 6.2 over his first two seasons), assists (9.0 from 3.8) and rebounding (4.3 from 1.8). In perhaps the best statistical sign of his all-around improvement, Vasquez registered a triple-double, while coming within a single rebound of a triple-double in two other instances.

Something about the Atlanta Hawks brought out the best in Vasquez’s multi-dimensional skill set during a breakthrough year. He compiled his first NBA triple-double at Atlanta in a 111-100 victory on Feb. 8, posting 21 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. In the previous Jan. 1 matchup against the Hawks in New Orleans, he was oh-so-close to the rare statistical achievement, with 17 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists. Vasquez also was 3-for-5 on three-pointers vs. Atlanta on Feb. 8, part of his improvement in that category up to 34.2 percent from a 30.8 career rate.

"This whole season has been tough for all of us. We don’t like this record and we don’t like all of these injuries. A lot of guys have been out for a lot of games. AD (Anthony Davis) was out for a while, Eric (Gordon) was out for a while, Jason Smith, Austin (Rivers), I was out for a couple games. The only person to play all the games was Robin (Lopez). It was a tough year for us, but in order for us to be good we took a huge step, now next year there won’t be any excuses. We’ll be a more experienced team… I think next year we’re going to be more prepared and more experienced. I think we’ll take a huge step forward." – Greivis Vasquez "His ability to read defenses has gotten a lot better. Point guard is like playing quarterback. He has to know what the defense is doing, so he can counter that action and find open guys. We do a lot of film work to help him see it. He’s not a Russell Westbrook, blazing-fast type of player, so he had to learn how to set guys up (to move) in the opposite direction of where he wants to go. That helps him in not having that kind of (elite) speed." - New Orleans assistant Fred Vinson What made Greivis Vasquez a deserving candidate for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award?

@LanceT_LA: He just about doubled his season totals in points, assists, and rebounds and played only nine more minutes per game.

@LoganLovesLyfe: He went from barely playing to being a leader on a team and leading the NBA in assists. It’s a joke that (Paul) George got the award.

@hunnisher3: Because not only did he improve his stats, he improved his position. As somebody else said he went from nothing to a lot.

@mileshest: He is Court General Greivis... what more needs to be said?