The New Orleans Hornets were never to play a season of consequence. In the wake of Chris Paul's departure, all this franchise had was the promise of ping pong balls, a hope that they could re-sign Eric Gordon and a season of playing time and practice for a roster loaded with young players.
But even then, most of the assets on the roster were known quantities. New Orleans lacked a true wild card candidate, if only in the sense that most of the rotation-caliber assets in-house were so easily ceilinged, and that Gordon stood out as perhaps the one player on the roster with truly stellar potential.
There was ample room for improvement otherwise, but only the slightest hope that a group of useful but flawed players might make a dramatic change or flash some then-unknown skill that would grant value to a franchise in transition.
Greivis Vasquez seems to have established himself as just such a player, though expectations for his future should remain tethered firmly to the ground. Vasquez was shipped out by the Memphis Grizzlies in a preseason deal for Quincy Pondexter that was met with little fanfare on either side.
Pondexter was rarely used and even more rarely productive during his rookie year in New Orleans, and Vasquez had appeared slightly too wild to be a reliable NBA player during his rookie campaign in Memphis. Neither player was likely to be missed much, and that's more or less been the case as both franchises have gone their respective ways.
Yet Vasquez has established a new restraint in New Orleans, where he's found unexpected minutes in Jarrett Jack's injury-induced absence. Last season, Vasquez appeared to be a fringe third guard in the making, albeit one in far over his head playing behind Mike Conley for the Grizz.
Yet this year—behind better shooting percentages, improved off-ball work and more careful playmaking—Vasquez looks the part of a legitimate backup. Perhaps the style in Memphis didn't jive well with Vasquez's unique flavor.
Regardless, the 25-year-old sophomore has come into his own on a shockingly competitive cellar-dwelling Hornets team. Monty Williams has kept his team engaged and Vasquez—who is a proven competitor, if nothing else—has been a big part of New Orleans' night-in, night-out efforts.
It's tough to sell the future of a relatively marginal player who will turn 26 in January, but this campaign should remind us that we haven't seen everything Vasquez is capable of just yet. We've caught a glimpse of how he responded to a poor fit as an inexperienced rookie, and have now seen the production he's capable of when filling starter's minutes in a jam.
He hasn't yet undergone the intense scrutiny that point guards on winning teams so often face, but he's come out of the other side of his earliest trials looking like a positively viable NBA player.