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Pondering Pondexter

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Quincy Pondexter’s coming back to New Orleans. What’s he bringing to the Pelicans this time around?

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

After some reshuffling of pieces, Quincy Pondexter and a second round pick are coming to New Orleans by way of a three team trade with Boston and Memphis. The Grizzlies are acquiring Jeff Green and Russ Smith and Boston is getting Tayshaun Prince, Austin Rivers and a Memphis first round pick.

A lingering problem the Pelicans have had this season is the lack of a true three-and-d small forward. Can Quincy Pondexter address that need?

Who He Is

Pondexter spent his first NBA season with New Orleans and it’s hard to appropriately grade his time here. He played in a career high 66 games, starting six, but only averaged about 12 minutes a night. He averaged 2.8 points and 1.3 rebounds on 41/36/71 percent shooting. On a per-36 minute basis he posted a healthy 9 and 4. The following year, Pondexter was traded the day before the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season started to Memphis for Greivis Vasquez.

Since then, Pondexter has spent the past three seasons as a serviceable player coming off the bench for the Grizzlies. He got the most minutes of his career during the 2012-13 season, and showed he can be a valuable piece for a playoff team. While still not scoring a ton of points, Pondexter shot 43 percent from the floor, a career high 39.5 percent from three (which also led the team) and posted a personal defensive rating of 104, another career best. In the postseason that year, Pondexter gave us a nice glimpse of what he could be: averaging around nine points and three rebounds on 49 percent shooting from the floor and 45 percent from three.

Unfortunately, Pondexter has also battled injuries throughout his career. In his aforementioned 2012-13 season, he missed 23 games. Last season, a stress fracture in his foot caused him the final 63 games of the regular season and he also missed the postseason. Injuries and a lack of playing time have derailed Pondexter several times, but many believe that with good health and sufficient opportunity he might even be a capable starting small forward.

What He Does

Pondexter’s career three point shooting percentage is deceptive in regards to his ability. For his career he’s only a 34 percent shooter from outside but look a little closer. His best year from beyond the arc (39.5 percent) was also the year he took the most three-point shots he’s ever taken (152). Doesn’t that mean something? Isn’t it possible that Pondexter’s like a running back who gets stronger with the more carries he gets, and he just needs the repetition to find that stroke?

When Pondexter primarily shoots threes from the corner, he’s at his best. Check out his three best seasons shooting from the corner and note how frequently he took those shots from there.

Year

Percent of Three Point Attempts

Three Point Percentage

2012-13

58.6 percent

44.9 percent

2011-12

68.5 percent

36.0 percent

2010-11

76.0 percent

36.8 percent

Pondexter can add some healthy spacing for the Pelicans. If he regains that shot, that could present Jrue Holiday or Tyreke Evans better opportunities to drive to the hoop. If not, they'll burn defenses with another available release on the wing. The numbers back that claim up.

Pondexter is also a decent defender. In his first three seasons in the league, his individual defensive rating improved each season, culminating with a 104 rating in 2012-13. This season and last year; however, his defensive rating shot up to 110. I’d assume that injury has played a big part in this spike. It makes sense doesn’t it? A guy improves defensively each of his first three seasons in the league and, coming off injury, he’s suddenly not as reliable a defender? I’d chalk this up to a guy still trying to regain form after injury.

What’s the Hope?

First and foremost, the Pelicans need to hope that Pondexter can get healthy. He was constantly getting better in every aspect of his game over his first three seasons, improving his PER, true shooting percentage, offensive and defensive rating and even win shares. But ever since his bad luck with injuries, those numbers have come crashing back down to Earth. Through 30 games in 2014-15, he’s shooting career lows in field goal percentage (35.6 percent), from three (23.3 percent) and the second worst free throw percentage (70.0 percent).

If he can return to his 2012-13 form, this can work out nicely for the Pelicans. Personally I’m cautiously optimistic: I know what he is and what he can become, but I’m scared that injuries are going to keep him from maximizing his potential. At $3 million per for the next three years he can certainly be a bargain if he can stay healthy and get back to that constantly improving player he was over his first three years.

Best Case Scenario: Pondexter gets (and stays) healthy and he develops into the Pelicans’ starting small forward fulfilling the team’s need for a 3-And-D wing who doubles as three point threat.

Worst Case Scenario: He’s Eric Gordon but less sad/expensive/irritating. Which is to say, constantly breaking down and never getting the most out of what could have been.

Realistic: Pondexter’s a solid bench guy; he logs anywhere from 16-21 minutes, plays some solid defense, makes a couple of threes, and maybe starts a few games. In a word, he’s serviceable.