Quincy Pondexter has a soft spot in my heart.
Here's what I thought Pondexter's role would be for New Orleans:
"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."
Soooo...yeah I got that wrong. Good thing nobody here pays me. Anyway, before we look back on how Pondexter's homecoming exceeded expectations, let's go over how his time away from New Orleans went and what it cost the franchise to get him back.
After being selected 26th overall in the 2010 NBA Draft by Oklahoma City, Pondexter and something called "Craig Brackins" were shipped off to New Orleans in exchange for Cole Aldrich and Morris Peterson. Pondexter played in 66 games and started six for the then-Hornets. Pondexter averaged 11 minutes, scoring 2.8 points on 41/36/71 percent shooting.
A day before the 2011 season, Pondexter was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies for Greivis Vasquez. He spent the following three and a half seasons in Memphis. The number of games he appeared in decreased each year due to injury. In the 2012-13 season he missed 23 games due to a sprained MCL; a foot stress fractured caused Pondexter to appear in only 15 games last season.
At the start of this season, Pondexter's attempt to return from injury got off to a miserable start. In his final 30 games as a Grizzly, Pondexter was shooting a career low 36 percent from the floor and 23 percent from three. No longer able to fill the need as Memphis' 3&D wing, Pondexter was dealt to New Orleans in a three-team trade. Here's a refresher on the parts involved in that late-January trade:
- Boston acquired Austin Rivers, Tayshaun Prince and a Memphis first round pick.
- Memphis landed Jeff Green and Russ Smith.
- New Orleans got Pondexter and a second round pick from Memphis.
While Memphis got the biggest name, New Orleans ultimately proved to be the winner of the deal.
Here's what we knew about Quincy Pondexter prior to his second stint for New Orleans: he's a high-IQ player capable of defending two's and three's. He was steadily improving from 3-point range prior to injury, hitting a career best 39.5 percent in 2012-13. Pondexter was also consistently getting better as a defender, improving upon his defensive rating each of his first three seasons. We were also cautiously aware of how injuries have plagued him: he missed a combined 86 games his final two full seasons in Memphis and he didn't show signs of moving past them in his final 30 games there.
So, if New Orleans was on The Price is Right, they were going to get one of two potential Quincy Pondexter Showcases. Either they'd get:
A) The always banged up, can't hit a shot version, also known as "The Eric Gordon Delight"
B) The three point threat that could ably defend opponent's shooting guards or small forwards.
Thankfully, New Orleans did what any non-chump contestant would do and passed on A. You know you're always supposed to pass right? The second showcase is always better than the first one. You're a certified chump if you don't pass. Like this guy. He's a total chump. Don't be this guy.
Anyway, coming back to New Orleans revitalized Quincy Pondexter's career. He reached career bests in field goal percentage, 3-point shooting, and overall offensive rating. He rose like a phoenix from the ashes of bad health and overall ineptitude and emerged as the New Orleans' starting small forward. Although for our purposes, I guess you could say he rose...like a Pelican? Right? Anybody?
For whatever reason after not being able to make a shot in Memphis, Pondexter shattered his previous career highs in numerous offensive categories for New Orleans. In his 45 games, he averaged 9 points, 3 rebounds, posted an offensive rating of 116 on 45 percent shooting from the floor and 43 percent from three.
Maybe it was the Memphis barbecue? But that would imply one could eat healthy in New Orleans. You can eat well, sure, but eating "healthy?" I mean in Louisiana we eat hush puppies and that's fried batter.
As simple as it sounds, I think the biggest reason behind Pondexter's success was being allowed ample opportunity to get on the court. Is it really a coincidence that Pondexter's best season in Memphis just so happened to be the year he logged the most minutes? Pondexter averaged a career best 28 minutes a night for New Orleans and reached career bests in multiple statistics.
You don't need to be Lucy to realize "hey there's a correlation here." And hey look at that, Pondexter's best seasons in terms of three point percentage just so happened to be the year where he attempted the most and amount of threes. I'm pretty sure that means something.
Quincy Pondexter was in the Pelicans starting lineup for the final 28 regular season games. His best stretch came between March 10, his birthday no less, and April 8. In those 14 games, Pondexter scored 10+ points 11 times including 20 points in the win over Golden State. Hey remember when the Pelicans could beat the Warriors awwwwweeeeeee too soon?
In that same stretch, he also scored 18 in the wins over Milwaukee and Sacramento. But neither of those three games can be considered his best this season. That distinction belongs to the show he put on against the Nets on February 27 in the Smoothie King Center.
With no Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson or Jrue Holiday, Quincy Pondexter put the Pelicans on his back. The best player on the floor that night, Pondexter scored a career high 25 points, making nine of 13 shots including half (4-8) of his three pointers. If you add in Pondexter's making all three of his free throws, you'll find he hit 80 percent of the shots he took those 40 minutes he was on the court.
The Pondexter trade turned the Pelicans' season around. New Orleans went 27-18 in the 45 games he played in. Those 27 wins account for 60 percent of New Orleans' wins on the season. Obviously, Pondexter isn't the definitive reason New Orleans was able to chase down Oklahoma City, but he provided something they desperately needed to make it in: grit, three point shooting and defense. And remember, he's under contract for the next three seasons at less than $4 million per season, so New Orleans has their starting small forward on a bargain.
Dell Demps decided to bring Quincy Pondexter back home and Pondexter rewarded him with a career year and emerged as a core piece of a playoff team. That's why the Pelicans were the biggest winners of the trade.