Can Greivis Vasquez continue his success in Sacramento?
Examining what Greivis Vasquez can do with the Kings, off the bench or as a starter.
Greivis Vasquez' success is pretty amazing. A quality player coming out of Maryland, Vasquez lacked essentially everything you would imagine you would want in a prospect. He was 24 his first season. He lacked explosiveness. He lacked elite speed. His hande was nothing transcendent. He wasn't a superb shooter. He should have never made it, honestly, according to the odds.
I certainly didn't think he would.
Then, a funny thing happened. He did.
He became a quality backup for Memphis who just managed to make plays and hit big shots. Then he was traded to New Orleans, and shockingly was one of the best assist makers in the league last season. Coach Monty Williams consistently downplayed his contributions on account of his poor defense, but in reality, Vasquez was still a super-productive point guard. Can he replicate that in Sacramento, with 300 other guards on the roster? Kings blog Sactown Royalty explores:
Vasquez's acquisition was probably the most interesting one of the offseason for Sacramento because he brings a much different play style than most of the previous guards Sacramento has employed. He's a pass-first point guard who can also score instead of a score-first guard who can also pass. Last year Vasquez had an assist rate of 44.9% meaning that almost half of the field goals scored by the Hornets while he was on the floor were assisted by him. In comparison, Isaiah Thomas had the highest assist rate on the Kings at 24.6%. In fact, no player in Sacramento Kings history has ever cracked the 40% mark for assist rate:
Now, assists aren't everything. Despite having one of the league's best passers on their team, and Sacramento being one of the most selfish teams in the league, New Orleans finished 23rd in total assists to Sacramento's 25th, and also finished with a worse record. To be fair, they were without two of their best players (Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon) for a significant period of time.
But did Vasquez make the Hornets better? According to 82games.com, he did. New Orleans' offense was 5.3 points better per 100 possessions with Vasquez on the floor than off it. However, the defense was 4.1 points worse.
So can Vasquez make the Kings better? First, he'd have to beat out Isaiah Thomas for the starting PG spot, which isn't a given just yet (underestimate Thomas at your own peril). Should he do so, I think there's a very good chance for Vasquez to shine. DeMarcus Cousins in particular could see a big pump in his production by playing with a pass-first guard like Vasquez. Of the top scoring big men in the league last year, Cousins was by far the least-assisted at only 47.7%, meaning he had to create a lot of his own shots, thus decreasing his efficiency. According to HoopData, the league average for percentage of assisted field goals for big men is around 65%. Cousins will always be a shot creator, as it's one of his biggest strengths, but having a guy like Vasquez who can find him in better spots should up that enough to where his efficiency can see a big boost.
It's an interesting set of questions. I've thought since last year, though, that Vasquez is best served as a reserve. Having a pure-point backup who you can use in late-game dual-point-guard combos (provided you can get away with it defensively, a big question for Sacramento) is really valuable. And STR is right, in that he and Cousins could really connect well, as could he and stretch forward Patrick Patterson.
128 of Ryan Anderson's 472 made field goals last year were assisted by Vasquez. In a similar role, both players could really benefit. If the Kings can get some good perimeter defense from somewhere, and use Isaiah Thomas as the starting point guard, Vasquez could be perfect, and extremely useful as a sixth man. There are a lot of questions with the King, but this is one element that can work extremely well if things break right.
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