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Quincy Pondexter Doing Everything Austin Rivers Couldn't for the Pelicans

this is a discussion within the Pelicans Community Forum; Austin Rivers was asked to do a lot for the New Orleans Pelicans , but nothing too crazy—knock down three-pointers, play defense and provide strong minutes off the bench. From the day he was taken with the 10th pick in ...

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Old 03-05-2015, 12:30 PM   #1
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Quincy Pondexter Doing Everything Austin Rivers Couldn't for the Pelicans

Austin Rivers was asked to do a lot for the New Orleans Pelicans, but nothing too crazy—knock down three-pointers, play defense and provide strong minutes off the bench.

From the day he was taken with the 10th pick in 2012, expectations were high for the 22-year-old, who very seldom delivered.

Every once in a while, he’d have a game that made you think he could one day actualize all that potential he displayed at Duke. But more often than not, Rivers disappointed.

Two-and-a-half years into their partnership, and with his unrestricted free agency approaching this summer, the Pelicans decided to cut ties with the highly publicized shooting guard and dump him to the Boston Celtics in a three-way deal with the Memphis Grizzlies.

For what it's worth, the Celtics eventually traded him to the Los Angeles Clippers, where he’s been giving his father, Doc, nearly identical numbers that he gave NOLA.

Initially, the Pelicans’ primary motive for the move appeared to be parting ways with Rivers. But what they got in return—small forward Quincy Pondexter—was exactly what they were looking for all along.

From Overhyped to Underdog

Rivers didn’t draft himself. But getting selected as a lottery pick comes with certain expectations—and failure to meet them results in that most unkind word.


The former high school and college standout never adapted his game to the NBA. He’s always been elusive with the rock, but pro-level defenders don’t get crossed up each time Rivers goes through his legs. His first step is swift, but if he can’t get by his man in a dribble or two, he flounders.

Rivers’ three-point shooting has never been great, as he’s converted just 32.5 percent of his attempts from distance in his career. To worsen the shooting woes, it felt like the Pelicans were constantly searching for the 22-year-old's motor.

With Pondexter, that's the first thing they got.

Worst of all, however, is the poor kid’s defense. An excerpt from my Dec. 15 article on him still rings true:
It doesn’t appear as though the cause for Rivers’ porous defense is a lack of effort. His offensive quickness just doesn’t translate to the other end of the floor, and his feet are often made to look like cinderblocks when he’s matched up with a serviceable opponent.

Is there potential for Rivers, who, as written by B/R's Fred Katz, has actually been respectable on D for Los Angeles? Sure—just like there is with any guy who makes it this far.

It does appear, however, that he’s been given a longer leash than most youngsters would due to the name on the back of his jersey.

Pondexter, who spent four years at Washington, stands in stark contrast to Rivers in just about every way possible. The former is definitely the bigger name and is 10 times more likely to be stopped on the street for autographs or a picture.

But for all the buzz that Rivers creates, he made the same mistake that Pondexter’s father did in leaving college before he was polished enough for the pros.

“It’s stuck with me a lot,” Pondexter said of his father in 2010, who was drafted in the third round but eventually just played in Italy and Argentina, via Billy Waltz of the New York Times. “He never wanted me to make the same mistake that he did...He wanted me to make sure I got a great education and make sure I knew the game of basketball before I left.”

After taking him with the 26th pick in 2010, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Pondexter, along with Craig Brackins, to the New Orleans Hornets for Cole Aldrich and Morris Peterson.

With just 2.8 points and 1.3 rebounds per game on his resume, the Hornets sent Pondexter packing for Memphis’ Greivis Vazquez in December of 2011. He spent the next three-and-a-half years there, seeing sporadic minutes and contributing yawn-inducing numbers.

To make matters worse, an MCL sprain and foot fracture in back-to-back years (2011-12 and 2012-13) allowed the forward to play in 74 out of a possible 164 contests (45.1 percent).

Still, Q-Pon liked playing in Memphis and carved out a decent niche for himself there as a randomly used dynamo. But he clashed with head coach Dave Joerger, who took the reins from Lionel Hollins prior to last season, over playing time.

Midway through another season on the pine, Pondexter finally caught the break he had been waiting on for four years.

He became a Pelican again.

A Huge Addition

It should be noted that Rivers and Pondexter play different positions. The former Dukie usually had the ball in his hands, while Q is more reliant on spot-up shooting and slashing to make things happen.

But the role that they fill—or tried to fill, in Rivers’ case—was the same: hit open shots, play tough perimeter defense and be a reliable source of energy off the bench.

While still in New Orleans, Rivers' backcourt minutes were beginning to be seized by Jimmer Fredette. Injuries, notably a torn labrum in starting SG Eric Gordon's shoulder, kept Rivers in the mix.

Even with Jrue Holiday out, Gordon, Tyreke Evans and Norris Cole have totally dominated the rotation. However, it’s been Pondexter who has commandeered Rivers' role.

The 6’7”, 225-pound forward isn’t very physically intimidating—he’s more park-pickup-game than basketball Adonis.

Until the game starts, that is.

On the defensive end, the lanky Pondexter goes at his man like a wild dog goes at a piece of meat. While he’s not the fastest or most athletic, and does occasionally get beat, the 26-year-old works and never lets up.

But his value is so much deeper than that.

Since joining the Pelicans, Pondexter has averaged 8.3 points and 2.9 rebounds (which would be career highs) and has been a source of life with Anthony Davis, Holiday and Ryan Anderson sidelined with recent injuries.

The numbers are OK—certainly nothing to do a cartwheel over. Pondexter isn’t looking for highlights or big-time stats, though, he just wants Ws.

His teammates seem to feed off his energy on both ends, too, which was something that could almost never be said about Rivers.

“We believe in ourselves,” Pondexter said after torching the Brooklyn Nets for a career-best 25 points on Feb. 25, per Ken Trahan of SportsNOLA.com. “We’re missing some great players but at the same time, we believe in ourselves. Other guys are stepping up. The guys put in the work. All the guys are so hungry. At the end of the day, it’s about our team making the playoffs.”

Pondexter followed up his memorable night—which included five rebounds, a pair of assists, four three-pointers and a 102-96 win—with another explosion against the Miami Heat 48 hours later.

This time, in a 104-102 slugfest, Pondexter went for 18 points and three rebounds as the Cans won their season-high fifth straight game without (arguably) their three best players.

Against Miami, Q was 0 of 2 from downtown but still managed to pour in an efficient 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting. On the season, he’s shooting 50.5 percent from inside the arc and 35.2 percent from beyond it.

Currently just a game back of the Thunder for eighth place in the West, and with Davis back in the lineup, the Pelicans will have a chance to take this race down to the wire.

Without Pondexter, that wouldn't be possible.

Looking Beyond 2014-15

Let’s not paint this to be scene full of only sunshine and rainbows. There have been games where Pondexter hasn’t delivered.

He’s scored five or fewer points eight times since he came to New Orleans. Sometimes his relatively limited offensive arsenal holds him back. He's a hardworking defender, but not a lockdown stopper.

He’s definitely not perfect.

But since Pondexter became a full-time starter on Feb. 21, the Pels have gone 6-1. When Holiday returns to the starting unit, and Anderson reclaims his off-the-bench role, this team will have the makings of a playoff contender. And as head coach Monty Williams told Andre Johnson of MemphiSport.com, Pondexter's versatility is a big part of that:
He could be a two-way player where he could defend his position and other positions. He’s shown the ability on certain nights where he could knock down shots and make plays for us. He has shown intangibles, whether it be just know how to guard a guy, using his length to guard or contest shots, and knowing how to guard. But he’s been in a lot of big games in Memphis, so that’s something I can’t give him. He has that experience.

With a young core already in place, Pondexter, who’s signed through 2017-18 for close to $4 million a year, is the perfect type of blue-collar role player to place around Davis long term.

He’ll knock down open shots but won’t cry about touches. He’ll play 20 minutes off the bench or 40 as a starter. When the ball hits the floor, his body will too.

“It’s crazy,” Pondexter said of his 21-year-old, MVP-caliber teammate, per NOLA.com. “We haven’t seen too many players like him in the history of this game. I’m looking forward to growing with him, and seeing how far we could possibly get. He’s a tremendous talent and is going to have an unbelievable career. He’s going to be up there with the top guys when it’s all said and done.”

Getting more minutes and playing better than ever, it appears that Pondexter has hit his stride—and found his home—in New Orleans as a hard-nosed defender and spot-scorer capable of invigorating his team on either end.

As their former shooting guard stumbles toward free agency this summer, the Pelicans can sit back and marvel at the guy who has figured out how to do what Rivers never could.

All stats are accurate courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com as of March 4.

Read more New Orleans Pelicans news on BleacherReport.com

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Old 03-06-2015, 12:36 AM   #2
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Re: Quincy Pondexter Doing Everything Austin Rivers Couldn't for the Pelicans

I watched Rivers play for the Clippers last night and he looked exactly how I remember. He can not shoot. He is aggressive driving the lane and fairly athletic but consistently blows open lay-ups. Pondexter is much better. Pondexter hustles harder on defense, is a smooth creative finisher and a consistent three point shooter. Pondexter, Cole and even Cunningham were all great additions made by the Pels front office this season. These guys can all play D and shoot.
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