Something's Gotta Give
Quincy Pondexter is famously remembered for his spectacular performance against the San Antonio Spurs in the 2012 Western Conference Finals, in which the Memphis Grizzlies lost the series 4-0. At 26 years old, Quincy Pondexter should now be hitting his stride with some NBA experience under his belt. The Grizzlies acquired Pondexter via trade back in December 2011, and since then he has tried to better his game. He's averaged 4.5 points per game over his whole career, and he averaged 6.3 in limited time last year that was ended by a tarsal navicular stress fracture. Now, preseason is upon us, October 29th is drawing ever closer, and the Grizzlies are still trying to figure out their starting wings. Quincy has started two of the preseason games thus far, and here are his numbers for all three:
21 minutes, 7 points, 1 assist, 3 rebounds.
Vs. Houston (did not start):
20 minutes, 9 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds.
26 minutes, 2 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds.
Let's look at some trends here. The first trend is the decent amount of minutes Pondexter is getting in these games. In each of these matchups, he's playing at least 20 minutes. But let's look at the production he's putting out during these minutes. His best stat line was in the loss to Houston, in which he scored 9 points, had 3 assists, and did not get the start. On the other hand, he logged his most minutes in the win against Atlanta, which includes his least impressive stat line. The game against Milwaukee is a sort of median between the other two, but this was also in a loss. So, the two games in which Quincy had a "better" performance both ended in losses. On the other hand, the game where he didn't start and was practically a non factor was the one that the Grizzlies won. Though these are just preseason games, the same could be said about his spectacular Western Conference Finals performances... they were all in losses.
And while I'm all for giving Q-Pon a chance, I'm also realistic and want the Grizzlies to win, just like you do. Is Quincy going to help the Grizzlies do that? Or should his minutes be given to an Adams, Carter, or Lee? Should he be traded altogether? Do we put much stock into these preseason games and his limited time last year?
At this point, I will be watching Pondexter with a fair amount of scrutiny, because if his stats have not improved come trading time, I'm afraid we should bid Q-Pon and his adorable dog Buckets goodbye.
Before his injury last year, Quincy signed a four year, $14 million contract, which indicated the front office's apparent trust in him.
So, why is he struggling during this preseason? If he wants to be a legitimate starter and rotation player, he must take advantage of the minutes he's getting. When Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, or another trusted player has a bad night during the preseason, I just shrug my shoulders. But Quincy is failing to see his position, it seems; he needs to stand out during the preseason, or he most likely will not start this season. And I believe that he is after a starting job this year.
So how can Quincy play his proper role? What makes him a valuable asset?
Well, he's supposed to provide scoring. For his larger size, I'd expect him to snatch a few rebounds consistently, too. Therefore, I need to see Quincy's scoring increase by improving his perimeter shooting and even his around-the-rim shots. Otherwise, I don't see how he's particularly valuable. Though he's an average defender, Quincy's strength should be to knock down some three's and provide some legitimate scoring in the Grizzlies lineup. In doing so, he can allow more spacing for Gasol and Randolph.
Let's take a look at one of Q-Pon's best performances against the San Antonio Spurs:
In this game, he's doing exactly what I want him to do, which is to shoot three's and space the floor for the other players.
How many three's has he attempted this preseason? Five.
How many three's has he made this preseason? Zero.
For further evaluation let's take a look at his shot chart in the 2012-13 regular season...
Notice his only "hot spots" are the corner threes, which is also indicated from the playoff footage above, and seems to be his preference.
And let's take a look at his sparse 2013-14 shot chart...
As hinted at before, this is hardly adequate in judging him, since he had such limited games. Yet, we can gather some information from both of these shot charts. Clearly, he is struggling to finish around the rim in general, and his best shooting spot is that corner three. Like I've already said, he is an average defender. He has nice size, but I need to see him utilize it by finishing around the basket.
The way I've viewed Pondexter's recent performances this preseason has been that he's not done anything bad, but he hasn't done things that are necessarily great, either. Unfortunately, this is not good enough. Pondexter needs to make a bigger impact on the floor, because there are too many other preferable options that could currently replace him and better the team. Vince Carter, for instance, drained two from deep against the Hawks and came up with nine points during his limited play in his Grizzlies debut Saturday.
Whether we want to admit it or not, maybe Quincy just does not fit into the Grizzlies' scheme. Perhaps, we will see a change tonight vs. Oklahoma City that might help his cause.
Or maybe he is not the role player that we need. I truly hope Quincy can better his game and stay on the roster. But if he doesn't, Q-Pon needs to go for the better of the Grizzlies and their championship hopes.