USA Today Sports
The New Orleans Hornets have the makings of a special backcourt in the tandem of point guard Greivis Vasquez and shooting guard Eric Gordon. The duo bring a combination of size, athleticism and play-making ability that will make them fun to watch for years to come.
The 26-year-old Vasquez is having a breakout year in his first full season as the starting point guard. He's third in the NBA in assists, averaging a little over nine helpers a game. He's scoring 13.8 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from the field and nearly 36 percent from the three-point line.
At 6'6", Vasquez has a huge size advantage over most point guards, which makes him a factor on the boards. As of Feb. 5, the former Maryland Terrapin is averaging 4.5 rebounds per game. Vasquez also won Western Conference Player of the Week honors for his play during the span of Dec. 24-30.
The electric-yet-brittle Gordon missed the first 29 games of the season, as he continued to be hobbled by knee troubles that cost him most of last season. His return on Dec. 29 sparked a brief turnaround for the Hornets, going 8-4 in the first 12 games since Gordon's comeback.
The 24-year-old Gordon is tied with forward Ryan Anderson as the team's top scorer, averaging 16.9 points per game. He's shooting 40 percent from the field and 37 percent from behind the arc. He's scored at least 20 points in six of the 15 games he's played in this season.
The beauty of having these two in the backcourt together is they can play off each other's strengths. Vasquez is a pass-first point guard and he relishes the opportunity to get his teammates involved. The former Grizzlies' first-round pick has double-digit assists in 21 of 48 games this season.
Let's take a look at one of Vasquez's best all-around performances this season. On Jan. 1 against the Hawks, he flirted with a triple-double, coming up just a rebound short in a loss to Atlanta. He'd finish with 17 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds on the night.
In this highlight reel, you get a glimpse of a little bit of everything. However, pay special attention to Vasquez at the 1:13 mark. While setting up the offense, Vasquez motions Gordon across the court, and then hits him with a pass to set up the mid-range jumper.
At the two-minute mark, you'll see Vasquez penetrate and draw the defense towards him. Then, he makes a pretty no-look pass to Roger Mason for the open three-pointer.
In the clip, you'll also see Vasquez uses his big, tall frame to back into defenders as well as get his hands on rebounds. Having a bigger point guard that can be a factor on the glass is a luxury that most teams don't have. It's one of the many things that make this backcourt special.
Now, here's a look at what Gordon brings to the table. In his much-anticipated season debut on Dec. 29, the former Indiana Hoosier showed everyone what the lineup has been missing without him. Despite concerns over his knee, Gordon routinely attacked the basket and was aggressive on both ends of the court.
In this video, you'll see the different ways Gordon can be dangerous. At 1:53 in, Gordon gets the screen from Jason Smith and explodes to the hole. Rather than take it himself, he hits Vasquez for the wide-open corner three-pointer.
At the 2:24 mark, Gordon changes direction at the top of the key, then attacks the basket and hits the circus shot with three defenders in the paint. Gordon's aggressiveness and ability to hit tough shots adds a different dimension to an offense heavy on outside shooters.
Who's the next great, young backcourt?
A little over three minutes into the clip, Gordon shows off his defensive skills. With the Bobcats on the break, Gordon breaks up the alley-oop by making an Ed Reed-like interception on the lob pass. For a defensive-minded unit like the Hornets, having someone who can make these kind of plays to force turnovers is key.
Thanks to Vasquez's emergence and Gordon's return from injury, the Hornets have a solid backcourt that could lead this team into the future.
Both men are capable scorers, who also have the knack to get others involved. They can also light it up from behind the arc, making them even more dangerous on offense.
New Orleans has both men under contract until at least the summer of 2015, when Vasquez is a free agent. With the kind of season he's having, it's only fair that New Orleans rewards their young point guard with a new deal to keep him in the Big Easy long-term.
As for Gordon, the biggest hurdle for him is staying healthy. If he can manage to stay on the court, he'll benefit from playing alongside an elite distributor like Vasquez.
With this pair as well as Ryan Anderson and the development of Anthony Davis, the Hornets could be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.