Last season the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans) were one of my favorite League Pass teams to follow. It was mostly because Greivis Vasquez is probably my favorite player from the University of Maryland not named Juan Dixon. On draft day Vasquez lost his starting spot when the Pelicans traded the rights of Nerlens Noel to Philadelphia for All-Star guard, Jrue Holiday.
With Holiday in town it was only a matter of time before either Greivis or Austin Rivers would be on their way out of town. With Rivers having one of the worst seasons ever, not just as a rookie, but ever as in all time, it was going to be easier to move Greivis and get something decent in return.
What the Pelicans get in return is former Rookie of the Year, Tyreke Evans from the Kings. Evans is going to get a four year, $44M deal from New Orleans and is probably going to supplant oft injured Eric Gordon as the starting shooting guard. Robin Lopez also heads to Portland in the deal with Jeff Withey and a 2nd rounder heading to New Orleans in return.
We should see a big turn around from Evans with the Pelicans. You could tell that the uncertain situation, the bad rotations by Keith Smart and injuries limited his growth in Sacramento. Monty Williams should be able to max out the potential of the 23 year old, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Rumors are that New Orleans and Indiana are in talks for a deal that would potentially send Gordon to Indiana. I would assume for something that starts with Danny Granger.
The winner of the deal though are the Kings. They rid themselves of a guy who didn't really have a true position and was a fringe starter at that. With Vasquez the Kings get something they desperately need and that is on the floor and in the locker room leadership. Vasquez has the nickname "The General" for a reason.
Not only does he bring leadership, but he brings an extremely high basketball IQ. He's an extension of the coach on the floor and brings a fire and swagger that the Kings have not seen in a decade. One player that should see an immediate benefit from this is DeMarcus Cousins.
Greivis is an excellent post passer which is mainly attributed to his height. Last season Isaiah Thomas could not get Cousins the ball in a quick and timely fashion, having to rotate the ball around and finding different lanes to get Cousins the ball, allowing defenders to get better position and either forcing Cousins to pass back out or forcing him into a bad shot.
With Vasquez that won't be an issue. Cousins will be able to get that initial post hit, knock the defender off balance with his big frame, get the initial pass from the top and should see a lot more easy looks in the post.
He should also see a higher than average improvement in the pick and roll.
Vasquez, though not as athletic as Thomas, is deceptively fast with the first step because of his long stride and has few shots blocked in the lane because he has a high, quick release point on his floater and is an excellent finisher at the rim. Because of this Vasquez requires attention off the pick, if Cousins slips out and can consistently hit a 12-17 footer off this we should see a huge jump in his production next season.
Outside his selfless play, Vasquez can score as needed. He shots 43% from the field, 32% from three and 80% from the line. This is only a microcosm of his ability scoring ability though. He thrives and I do mean thrives in the clutch. The last two seasons in New Orleans he did not have a chance to show off this ability.
Go back to his days at Maryland and watch him ans how he played in games against Duke and North Carolina. Okay, sure those were regular season college games. Watch the game he had against Michigan State in the 2008 NCAA Tournament. A game in which he should have had the game winner.
That epic Memphis-Oklahoma City triple overtime playoff game from two years ago doesn't even make it to overtime or a second overtime without Greivis Vasquez's heroics.
Vasquez isn't a great defender, but is better than Thomas, especially in pick and roll situation, he fills passing lanes better and because of Gary Williams' penchant for constant full court pressure and trapping, is quite adept at that as well. He is going to give his all on each defensive possession.
Two things Vasquez has been working on this offseason has been a post up game to take advantage of the new smaller guards that are now entering the league and his three pointer. Rumor has it he's taking up to 500 three pointers a day to get better.
As mentioned before, he's not the most athletic guy in the NBA, not even close. He is, however, one of the five hardest working guys in the NBA.
He has to be.
His work ethic and love for the game of basketball is something that is going to rub off on his Kings teammates. I would not be surprised if he hasn't already organized some sort of team activity already. He's going to make this team better and quickly.
All the attention is on Evans going to New Orleans, but the real winner is Sacramento here. A few months ago when it appeared that the Kings were going to come to Seattle to be the new Sonics, if I couldn't have Trey Burke in the draft, I wanted Ben McLemore and I wanted to trade Evans (because he wouldn't be worth the $10M plus a year on this team) to New Orleans for Vasquez. A core of Vasquez, McLemore and Cousins won't get you to the playoffs, but add a Wiggins, Parker, Gordon or Young in the 2014 draft and you have a team that is a few years away from potentially competing.