Let me start by saying that I love everything about Greivis Vasquez as a basketball player. He’s a high character, hard-working team leader who does everything well. He’s also a young player on a good contract — which all teams need to have to succeed.
My reason for wanting the Hornets to trade Vasquez is twofold:
1st: Vasquez has trade value. Playoff bound teams can use a versatile combo guard like Vasquez off the bench as they make a post season run. Vasquez would fit perfectly in Boston, Chicago or Dallas. Find the right trade partner and Vasquez could be parlayed into a low lottery pick or mid-first round selection in the 2013 NBA draft.
2nd: The success Vasquez is having , resulting in more minutes for him, is hindering Austin Rivers. The Hornets drafted Austin Rivers to play point guard. Rivers and the team made no secret of this fact. Right now though, Rivers is the Hornets backup shooting guard. Rivers NBA growth is being stunted. Unlike most, I’m a huge Austin Rivers fan. I was touting Rivers as the Hornets point guard of the future as long ago as last January. Deep down I believe Austin has the mental makeup and talent to lead a team as a starting point guard. Am I right? Who knows! The Hornets reluctance to start Austin at the point guard position only sets the team back further. Former Saints head coach Jim Mora is the co-host of our WDSU Saints on 6 specials — and while comparing football to basketball is apples to oranges — Mora does make a great point about young star players. When Mora drafted Peyton Manning in 1998 he said their was no doubt in his mind he was starting him from day #1. He said Peyton learned so much in his rookie season — despite the team going 3-13 and Peyton leading the NFL in interceptions. The point coach Mora makes about Peyton Manning has me thinking about Rivers. The Hornets are in full blown rebuild mode. So why not throw Rivers out there and see what he can do playing 30-35 minutes a night at point guard? The Hornets have lost 7 games at home this season by an average of 19 points — so how much worse would the team be playing Austin Rivers at point guard? Look at Oklahoma City, they drafted Russell Westbrook in 2008 — despite many doubters saying he was nothing more than a combo guard off the bench, a lock-down defender who wouldn’t be able to play the point. OKC started Westbrook in 64 games as a rookie. They had a vision and they refused to be distracted by naysayers. As a rookie, with Westbrook as the point guard, the Thunder opened the season 0-12, fired their head coach and then went 1-12. Westbrook opened his rookie campaign 1-24. But OKC stuck with him and the Thunder discovered they had a star.
The Hornets say they’re rebuilding but playing Greivis Vasquez and Brian Roberts at the point guard position says they are trying to win now. Trying to win now with players most would consider backups is a futile effort — start Rivers at the point guard position and see what you’ve got going forward. The easiest way to make Rivers a starter — and go get better in the long term with a draft pick — is to trade Greivis Vasquez.
One final point about Rivers — I remember when the Hornets traded a 1st round pick for Jerryd Bayless. Bayless was a player Monty Williams was familiar with because both were together in Portland. After a month as Chris Paul’s backup the Hornets traded Bayless to Toronto for Jarrett Jack. Monty said Bayless needed to be moved because he’s “more of a starting point guard who’d be more successful as a starter.” I feel the same way about Rivers. Rivers has no role right now — he’s lost in the Hornets rotation as a backup shooting guard. His role needs to be redefined. Again, we won’t know what Rivers is or if he’ll become something special until he gets the opportunity to start.
I love the new name of the franchise. Pelicans is tremendous. For those who hate it — saying it’s nor ferocious enough — realize names like Penguins and Dolphins work for franchises in other pro sports.
2013 NBA Free Agency: Joe Ingles — remember his name! After a breakout performance at the 2012 London Olympics, the Aussie wing has been doing very well in Spain. Ingles in 24 years old and will have several NBA teams beating down his doors. The Hornets didn’t pickup Al-Farouq Aminu’s contract option and the team has no depth at small forward. The Hornets also have money to spent — they could offer Ingles a full mid-level exception deal.
2013 NBA Draft:
Indiana center Cody Zeller, Maryland center Alex Len and Georgetown small forward Otto Porter all fill needs depending on where in the top 10 the Hornets are selecting.
If the Hornets pickup an additional pick — in late lottery or mid-first round — I love Doug McDermott from Creighton.