COMMENTARY | In a season that was more about player development than wins and losses, several young New Orleans Hornets made great strides on the court. PG Greivis Vasquez became the Hornets' unquestioned leader and he is now in the running for the NBA's 2013 Most Improved Player award. Evidence of Vasquez's outstanding play is the fact that he led the NBA in assists with 704.
The enormity of this accomplishment should not be minimized. Greivis Vasquez was only in his third NBA season and his first as New Orleans' full-time starting PG. Originally the 28th overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, Vasquez was not gifted a starting job at PG like Chris Paul and Damian Lillard were. In fact, Vasquez only started one game as a Memphis Grizzlies rookie, averaging just over 12 minutes per game.
Another remarkable aspect of Greivis Vasquez leading the NBA is assists is that he doesn't exactly play for an offensive juggernaut in New Orleans. The 2012-13 Hornets were 25th in points per game and 18th in FG percentage. One can only imagine how many assists Vasquez would have had if his New Orleans teammates were better shooters.
Of course, much of this can be blamed on the Hornets' youth. New Orleans was officially the second-youngest team in the NBA this season. There were games when the Hornets played well and blew out playoff teams and there were also games when the Hornets couldn't make a shot against the NBA's worst teams. Yet through it all, Greivis Vasquez maintained a surprising level of consistently for New Orleans.
The cohesion that Vasquez had with his teammates while running New Orleans' offense was impressive considering how many injuries the Hornets suffered. Anthony Davis was in and out of the starting lineup with several minor injuries. Jason Smith and Austin Rivers suffered season-ending injuries. And of course, Eric Gordon missed 40 games for the Hornets.
The final reason why Greivis Vasquez's assist numbers were amazing was that Hornets coach Monty Williams used so many different, bizarre rotations throughout the season. At times, Williams looked like a mad scientist throwing random chemicals into a beaker to see what would happen. Somehow, Vasquez managed to run the offense surprisingly well, as his assists were consistently strong throughout the NBA season.
Of course, Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul would have finished with more assists than Greivis Vasquez had they not gotten hurt. However, that does not diminish the fact that Vasquez led the NBA in assists for a bad Hornets team. Often in sports, stars get injured leading to someone else finishing first in a particular statistic. This is a part of the game and does not take away from Vasquez's superb season in New Orleans.
Now that the 2012-13 NBA regular season is over, Greivis Vasquez can sit back and reflect on an amazing campaign. Although he has his detractors and his game (like everyone's) has its flaws, he has proven he is an effective NBA starting PG. If he stays in New Orleans, he may someday lead the NBA in assists for the Pelicans as well.
Patrick Michael was born in New Orleans and currently resides in the Big Easy. Patrick has followed the Hornets since they moved to New Orleans and has covered the team since 2010. He was in attendance the night the Hornets were one win away from the Western Conference Finals. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
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