The New Orleans Hornets are benefiting from having the NBA's best bargain in point guard Greivis Vasquez. The former Maryland Terrapin has emerged as one of the league's breakout stars, and he's costing the Hornets just under $1.2 million this season.
Even better, the team has Vasquez under contract for next season at the remarkably cheap price of $2.1 million. Midway through his first full season as the Hornets' starting point guard, Vasquez is putting up career-high averages in points, rebounds and assists.
His 9.4 assists per game is good for third in the NBA, trailing only former Hornets/current Clippers guard Chris Paul and injured Boston Celtic Rajon Rondo. His 13.8 points per game makes him New Orleans' third-leading scorer. Vasquez's 22 double-doubles is also tops among all guards in the NBA.
Vasquez is a unique type of point guard. He has the size of a shooting guard (6'6", 211 pounds), but is more comfortable playing the role of a facilitator. Even at his height, Vasquez doesn't play above the rim and instead relies on layups and floaters when attacking the basket.
His jump shot looks a little awkward, as it looks like he doesn't get far off the ground before letting go of the ball with a quick flick. However, he's still managing to shoot 43 percent from the field and 35 percent from the three-point line this season.
The former Grizzlies first-rounder isn't without his faults. Among NBA point guards, only Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook and Philadelphia's Jrue Holiday average more than Vasquez's 3.1 turnovers per game. He also lacks ideal speed, which is problematic when having to defend quicker guards like Chris Paul or San Antonio's Tony Parker.
Still, the Hornets will accept Vasquez's shortcomings in exchange for having a potential All-Star point guard at a low cost. Vasquez is currently the 341st highest-paid player in the NBA. He'll make less money this season than Portland's Nolan Smith, who is logging a meager 8.2 minutes per game and and averaging 2.9 points a night.
The majority of the guys making what Vasquez will make this season can be found at the end of the bench of their respective teams. They aren't at the top of any leaderboards, and, with the exception of Brooklyn's MarShon Brooks, are barely recognizable to anyone outside of their immediate family.
Let's take a look at what has made Vasquez so productive this season. What you are about to see is a clip from Vasquez's performance against the Orlando Magic on Dec. 26. On this night, he would score a career-high 27 points, while also adding six rebounds and eight assists.
Throughout the video, Vasquez uses his height advantage over smaller defenders and utilizes the running floater frequently. Shorter point guards like Jameer Nelson are going to struggle to get a hand on a such a high-arcing shot taken by a much bigger opponent. At the 1:01 mark, luck is on Vasquez's side as he manages to convert an ugly heave that was practically shot from his armpit.
The other go-to move you'll see Vasquez use is his mid-range jumper. Since he doesn't have the kind of speed to constantly blow by defenders, having nice range on his shot comes in handy when he decides to cut the drive short and pull up for a jumper. Forty seconds in, Vasquez also proves he can make you pay if you leave him open for three.
Here's another staple of Vasquez's game: the pick-and-roll. This highlight comes from New Orleans' game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Nov. 7. It was a poor shooting night for Vasquez, as he went 3-for-13 and finished with seven points and turned the ball over five times.
He also dished out seven assists, one of which came on a nice pick-and-roll play with center Robin Lopez. Both men set up in the corner. Lopez sets the pick and gives Vasquez's man a slight bump. Vasquez goes to his right and, even before both defenders can even close on him, he distracts them long enough to split both men with a sweet bounce pass to Lopez for the dunk.
With promising young big men like Lopez and Anthony Davis, who excel at finishing around the rim, Vasquez has plenty of reasons to make the pick-and-roll part of his repertoire. The key to a successful pick-and-roll combo is having a point guard like Vasquez who can make pinpoint passes like what we just saw.
With cap room to play with and not a lot of needs, the Hornets could decide to reward their blossoming point guard with an extension that would keep him in New Orleans for a long time. At just 26 years old, Vasquez can continue to grow with a young Hornets core that includes Davis, Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon.
If they choose to let Vasquez play out his contract, they'll still have the luxury of having one of the best point guards in the league for virtually nothing. The ability to manage the salary cap and build teams by finding cost-effective quality starters is the mark of a smart franchise. With the league's best bargain in Greivis Vasquez, the Hornets are the enviable position of getting a lot of bang for their buck.
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