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Orlando Magic Could Make Greivis Vasquez an Interesting and Worthwhile Pick in the 2010 NBA Draft

Greivis Vasquez was the lone point guard to work out for the Orlando Magic yesterday, which either says something about the busy schedules of the other point guards in the NBA Draft or about how intriguing he is to the Magic. Big point guards have fascinated NBA personnel bosses since Magic Johnson's day, admittedly with very little success, and Vasquez is certainly big, measuring at 6'6.5" in shoes. Orlando has whiffed on two big point guards in the new millennium, blowing the 22nd overall pick on Jeryl Sasser in 2001 and the 15th selection on Reece Gaines two years later.

But there's more to Vasquez than his considerable height, relative to positional average. As a star at Maryland, he's played on big stages and delivered in big moments. He's a four-year senior, which appeals to Magic GM Otis Smith, who values maturity and experience in his draft selections. And he's skilled, averaging 19.6 points, 4.6 boards, 6.3 assists, and 1.7 steals during his senior season. Not highly regarded as a draft prospect initially, he's rocketed up the draft boards "due to outstanding individual workouts," according to DraftExpress.

Yet he's not without his drawbacks. 3.4 turnovers per game at the collegiate level is no good for anybody, especially not from a senior point guard. Though he's tall, his below-average wingspan (6'07", according to DraftExpress' measurerments) and average athleticism will compromise his ability to finish inside against NBA-caliber defenders. Additionally, his swag may be a bit too phenomenal for his own good. DraftExpress' Kyle Nelson writes, "[H]e must improve his shot-selection, as he settles for far too many low-percentage contested jumpers, still not quite knowing his limitations."

But no one with Vasquez's skills and college resume can be all bad. He has some positive points for Orlando to consider if he's still on the board when they draft at no. 29 this Thursday. Dan Tarwood certainly considered him, making him the Magic's selection in the SLAM Online mock draft due to his "relative experience and track record."

He can run the pick-and-roll.

Orlando's is a pick-and-roll-heavy offense, with that play ending 16.3% of its possessions this season, the highest figure in the league, according to Synergy Sports Technology. Vasquez ran the pick-and-roll on 13.1% of his individual possessions at Maryland, which is minuscule by Magic standards: Jameer Nelson, the starter at the point, used 44.1% of his possessions as a pick-and-roll ballhandler. However, when Vasquez did run the pick-and-roll, he did so effectively. The modest 0.786 points per possession and 34.5% scoring rate may not impress you, but what stands out to me is his ability to take care of the ball. Counting his passes in those situations, in addition to his individual offense, Vasquez turned the ball over on just 8% of his pick-and-roll plays as a senior. That's good by any standard, but especially when you consider how turnover-prone Vasquez is in general. It suggests that, in a controlled, orderly system, he can take care of the ball and make the right decisions. And receiving screens from Dwight Howard, and having the likes of Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis as passing targets on the perimeter, should improve his efficiency and scoring rate. In short, he shows promise in the heaviest component of Orlando's offense, a plus for any player, especially a point guard.

He won't turn the ball over as much.

So if he's not turning the ball over in the pick-and-roll, when is Vasquez making his mistakes? In transition, often as the lead ballhandler, as well as off cuts to the basket. Transition possessions accounted for the highest percentage of Vasquez's offense last season, at 21.6%... and he turned the ball over on 17.3% of those occasions. More specifically, as the lead ballhandler, he turned the ball over 18% of the time. He also turned the ball over on 21.4% of his cuts, which means he has either poor hands or teammates who can't pass effectively.

The upside here is that the Magic aren't a running team, ranking 23rd in the league in possessions used in transition, so he wouldn't figure to have many opportunities to blow a fast break.

Essentially, Orlando's offense would maximize Vasquez's strengths and minimize his weaknesses, if these data are any indication.

He's a jump-shooter who's shown steady improvement.

Like Quincy Pondexter, another player whom Orlando worked out, Vasquez has also developed as a shooter. As it's likely he would spend some time working away from the ball in Orlando's offense--he wouldn't always be shooting off the dribble--it's important to consider how effective and efficient he can be with his jump shot, which is a staple of the Magic's offense. Here's a year-by-year look at Vasquez's jump-shooting:

Season %Time Points Per Shot Rating
2009/10 59.9% 0.920 Good
2008/09 55.6% 0.862 Average
2007/08 64.9% 0.765 Average
2006/07 Data Not Available

Given his marginal athleticism, which I mentioned earlier, it's important that Vasquez be able to shoot consistently, since he probably can't be relied upon to finish at the rim on the pro level. His improved touch from the outside bodes well for his ability to do that.

Also, here's a quick look at how he's fared in catch-and-shoot situations throughout his career:

Season %Time Points Per Shot Rating
2009/10 20.6% 1.194 Very Good
2008/09 28.5% 0.938 Average
2007/08 25.8% 0.856 Below Average
2006/07 Data Not Available

Again, steady improvement in an area Orlando figures to feature him from time to time. A positive sign.

He can fill a stat sheet.

Players who can be effective even when their shots aren't falling can be valuable in this league, and the statistics show that Vasquez can contribute in a variety of ways. DraftExpress' survey of this year's point guard crop ranks Vasquez third in pace-adjusted scoring, third in pace-adjusted assists, third in pure point rating, fourth in pace-adjusted rebounding, and first in Player Efficiency Rating. With those high scores, though, there is a caveat:

The importance of guard play on the college level makes stars out of numerous prospects, but their ability to dominate the NCAA by no means guarantees that they will see much, if any interest from the NBA.

Vasquez would indeed be a risky pick, especially considering the dubious history of just about every tall point guard to enter the league since Johnson; the closest anyone's come to succeeding is Shaun Livingston, who's had to reinvent himself as a floor-bound distributor after a horrific knee injury robbed him of his athleticism and set him back three years. Incidentally, Livingston will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and might be worth a look.

In any case, this closer look at Vasquez has certainly piqued me interest, and he might make sense for the Magic if he's around when they're on the clock, and depending on who else is available. By the looks of things, the Magic are strongly leaning toward drafting a wing player instead. But if they go with a point guard so late in the first round, they could do far worse than to select Vasquez, whose offensive strengths blend nicely with the Magic's.