[It's been a busy few days here at At the Hive. Paul joined the team on Thursday, Mason made his debut Friday, Will covered Marcus Thornton's return with press credentials last night at the Hive, and Matt was courtside for photography (post coming soon). Today, Andrew (who runs the excellent Hoop Dat alongside Mason) caps off an exciting week with his first post. -Rohan]
The ultimate goal of every team is to win a championship, so it’s worth asking- how does a team become a serious contender in the NBA? The answer? Home grown talent. Even big market teams like the Knicks and Lakers can’t just buy free agents and expect to win a championship. The fact is every team needs to develop their rookies to become championship contenders. Look at a list of NBA champions for the past 20 years. The only team that hadn’t drafted (note: if a team traded for a rookie before he ever played a game, I count that as them drafting that player. So, for purposes of this articles, the Lakers drafted Kobe) and developed a majority of their key contributors was the Detroit Pistons in the 2003-2004 season. Even this season, the rule holds- the Spurs drafted Manu, Tony Parker, and Duncan, the Lakers had Kobe and Bynum; heck, even the Heat drafted Wade.
So, with that in mind, I thought I’d take a look at, in my mind, the biggest disappointment on the court disappointment of this season- the lack of development by Quincy Pondexter. I strongly believe that three years from now (assuming, of course, DWest and CP3 stay in New Orleans), there is a solid chance that Q-Pon’s lack of development will be the difference between the Hornets competing for a championship and remaining first round fodder.
Maybe that’s too hard on Q-Pon. Can you really expect that much out of a late first round pick? I think the Hornets did- coming into the season, they certainly had high hopes for Q-Pon. As the only small forward behind Trevor Ariza, the Hornets projected Q-Pon playing significant minutes as our backup small forward. After easing him in during the beginning of the season, the Hornets began giving him 10-15 minutes a night in late November / early December. Things cumulated in the past week or so, with Trevor Ariza missing three games in a row with a hip injury and Q-Pon starting in his place. This should have been Q-Pon’s chance to break out and maybe claim some minutes in the playoff rotation. How’d he respond? Actually, I don’t know, cause I can’t remember him being on the court. Outside of one good dunk in a blow out loss to the Knicks, Q-Pon failed to make a single play in this time. His three starts all looked something like this- 20 minutes played, 2 points on 1 of 4 shooting, and 2 rebounds. Not exactly the stuff of champions.
His stats on the season are similarly horrible. Among qualifying players, Q-Pon sports the 15th worst PER, with a horrendous 7.83 (the league average is 15). To put this in perspective, Blake Griffin is at 22.25 and Derrick Rose is at 22.92. So the difference between an average player and Q-Pon is basically equivalent to the difference between an average player and the MVP front runner and Rookie of the Year front runner. Q-Pon also rates as the second worst rookie, just ahead of Xavier Henry.
When I initially thought of this article, I was originally going to compare Q-Pon’s rookie season to that if two other Hornets busts, Julian Wright and Hilton Armstrong. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a comparison- both were significantly better in their rookie season, with JuJu sporting an above average 15.48 PER and Armstrong a 12.15 PER.
So where do we go from here? Honestly, I’m not sure. I haven’t seen anything to really get excited about from Q-Pon. People like his defense, but my eyes tell me it’s been pretty much average. He was talked about being a great athlete coming in, but I don’t think he’s more than a B athlete, and probably more like a B-. He was supposed to be a decent shooter, but he’s shooting 32.5% from deep and 40% from the field. He has one of the worst rebound rates among all small forwards and an average assist rate. About the only good thing that can be said for his game is his turnover rate is outstanding, but that’s really a function of him disappearing on offense.
Can he recover? Anything’s possible, but I can’t find any example of a rookie playing THIS bad in extended minutes and turning it around to become a decent rotation player, much less a starter (if any reader can find an example, I’d love to know). I’m sure it’s happened, but seriously, I can’t find any. Plus, Q-Pon’s not a young 18 or 19 year old struggling to develop. He’s a 23 year old with four years of college play under his belt.
In sum, it’s looking like the Hornets have missed out on yet another chance to draft and develop a complement to David West and CP3. Between JuJu, Hilton, Cedric Simmons, plus the loss of JR Smith, Brandon Bass, and Marcus Thornton, all of the misses are really starting to add up, and if our stars decide not to sign extensions once their contracts are up because they believe the Hornets won’t be able to compete long term, we really won’t have anyone to blame but ourselves.