New Orleans Pelicans Receive Quincy Pondexter in Trade

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Published: January 12, 2015

The New Orleans Pelicans have executed a mid-season trade with the Memphis Grizzlies for Quincy Pondexter. Pondexter was drafted as a senior from the University of Washington in 2010, ending up in New Orleans after the team traded pick 11 for picks 21 and 26. Those picks were Cole Aldrich (11), Craig Brackins (21), and Pondexter (26). See below for his rookie hazing picture at an open practice.

The Pelicans also send out Austin Rivers and Russ Smith, also receive Memphis’ 2015 2nd round draft pick. The trade details appear below.

Quincy Pondexter

Pondexter was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies in December 2011 just after the lockout ended. The then-Hornets received Greivis Vasquez in return. Pondexter had a good 2012-2013 season that was interrupted by an MCL sprain. He missed most of the following season with a stress fracture in his right foot.

In his 2012-2013 season, he posted a 0.565 TS%, largely due to the facts that over half his shots were three-point attempts and that he converted at 39.5%. He’s a good defender, though he defensive rating does not do him justice, as he often draws difficult assignments on the wing while playing with backups.

After returning from his stress fracture, however, Pondexter has not played well. Though his FG% is up in recent games, he’s still shooting a good deal more poorly than in his best season. He’s taken 73 of his 135 attempts from behind the arc, the highest such rate of his career, but he’s made those shots at by far the lowest rate of his career, making just 17 of those 73. If he can pick that rate back up to his ormal, we’ll see a big improvement in his offensive game in direct scoring and in drawing defenders. Additionally, he’s logged more minutes at shooting guard recently, though he was a small forward for his career up until then, including the best season of his career. This coincides with some coaching and staff changes, too. Chemistry matters.

He should play small forward for the Pelicans.

Grizzly Bear Blues

Chris Huffines from SBNation’s Grizzly Bear Blues was kind enough to give us his understanding of Quincy Pondexter in recent years.

Opportunity presented itself to Quincy Pondexter when Memphis acquired him from New Orleans. Rudy Gay was about to enter a critical point in his career, as a shoulder injury sidelined him for quite some time, including the full 2011 postseason. Would he be the same player Grizzlies fans and management had grown accustomed to watching? At the start of the 2012-2013 season, the wing rotation consisted of starters Gay (the aggressive scorer) and Tony Allen (the defense “guru”), as well as Wayne Ellington (a three-point marksman) and Pondexter – the best blend of shooting-potential and on-ball defense out of the options on the bench. Thus, Pondexter capitalized on the opportunity.

A rapport was built with Lionel Hollins, Memphis’ head coach at the time. And yet, it wasn’t a re-injury to Gay’s shoulder that ended his Grizzlies’ career prematurely. An in-season trade, which ultimately sent him to Toronto and brought Tayshaun Prince to Beale Street, proved to be the dagger. The opportunity window increased ever-more glaringly for Pondexter. Gay’s exit meant more playing time, and shots were now available. Although Prince would take that open starting spot, time was still needed to get adjusted to the “Grin-N-Grind” system. In the meantime, Pondexter took a proactive mindset into his increased minutes.

His confidence was the key. Made shots led to more aggressive defense. Even in critical moments during the 2013 Western Conference finals against the San Antonio Spurs, Pondexter was known to hit valuable three-point shots. That confident, aggressive approach to those increased minutes led to a successful 2012-2013 campaign.

Enter Dave Joerger…exit Lionel Hollins, stage right. Enter a severe stress fracture in his right foot…exit 2013-2014 season. Mike Miller’s clutch shooting re-appeared in Memphis. James Johnson flourished when he saw the court. Courtney Lee’s streaky shooting joined the fold mid-season. A new-found depth at the wing spots became apparent and limited Pondexter. A slow start didn’t help his argument for a rotation spot before his injury. During the lost time, Prince grew in his standing with Joerger and within the flow of the offense. “Frustrating” might be the best description of Pondexter’s season after his banner year.

Even with Miller re-joining his buddy in Cleveland and Johnson taking advantage of a new opportunity in Toronto, the Grizzlies added Vince Carter this past offseason to the wing rotation mix. Lee has shined his starting role alongside the defensive “Grindfather” Allen, and thus Prince and Pondexter have become forever linked in their Memphis careers – whether it be competing for minutes or as part of the same trade.

He can defend out on the wing. He is more of a streaky three-point threat, yet able to finish at the rim when he has an aggressive mindset. His confidence is the key. Made shots will lead to more aggressive defense. That confident, aggressive approach will determine the outcome of his 2014-2015 campaign.

Press Release

The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that the team has acquired forward Quincy Pondexter and a future second round draft pick from the Memphis Grizzlies as part of a three-team deal including the Boston Celtics. In exchange, New Orleans has traded guard Austin Rivers to Boston and guard Russ Smith to Memphis. As additional components of the trade, Boston has acquired forward Tayshawn Prince and a future first round draft pick from Memphis, and Memphis has acquired forward Jeff Green from Boston.

“The New Orleans Pelicans are thrilled to welcome back a high character person like Quincy Pondexter to our organization,” said Dell Demps, General Manager of the Pelicans. “Quincy is a two-way player, a multi-position defender that will add toughness along with an offensive skill set that we anticipate will help the Pelicans win games.”

“It was difficult to trade Austin Rivers and Russ Smith”, said Demps. “Russ was only with the team for a short time while Austin is an intense competitor that is continuing to improve. We will miss Austin and Russ on and off the court. We thank Austin and Russ for their contributions and wish them success in the future.”

Pondexter, 6-6, 225, Washington, appeared in 30 games this season with Memphis, holding averages of 4.5 points and 1.9 rebounds per game. This will be Pondexter’s second stint with New Orleans, as he spent his rookie season with the franchise during the 2010-11 season, appearing in 66 games and averaging 2.8 points and 1.3 rebounds. In his five seasons, Pondexter holds career averages of 4.5 points and 1.8 rebounds in 234 games.

Rivers, 6-4, 200, Duke, was originally selected by New Orleans with the 10th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Rivers has appeared in 165 games, holding career averages of 6.9 points, 2.3 assists and 1.9 rebounds. Rivers appeared in 35 games this season for the Pelicans, averaging 6.8 points, 2.5 assists and 1.9 rebounds.

Smith, 6-0, 165, Louisville, was acquired by New Orleans in a draft night trade this past June after being selected by the Philadelphia 76ers with the 47th overall pick. The rookie guard appeared in six games this season for the Pelicans, averaging 0.8 points, 0.5 rebounds and 0.3 assists.

Trade Details

  • New Orleans Pelicans
    • Receive from Celtics: Nothing
    • Receive from Grizzlies: Quincy Pondexter ($3,146,068 this season, $3,382,023, $3,617,978, $3,853,931 following 3 seasons), Memphis’ 2015 2nd round pick
    • Send to Celtics: Austin Rivers (2,439,840 expiring)
    • Send to Grizzlies: Russ Smith ($507,336 this season, $845,059, $980,431 following 2 seasons, both partially guaranteed)
    • Analysis: The Pelicans wing defense has continued to be porous this season. Though most of the season was played without Eric Gordon, a good defender generally, they’ve still been short of defenders at small forward. Placing Tyreke Evans in the starting lineup hurt the bench, and perhaps Anthony Davis. Placing a shooter at small forward did not help enough. Against the Grizzlies, Dante Cunningham started at small forward while Evans played big minutes off the bench. This formula seemed to work, but Cunningham had no points in over 20 minutes. Pondexter could provide the offense and defense necessary to space the floor while finally giving the Pelicans a solid perimeter with Asik anchoring and Davis raising six kinds of hell on the five opposing players as they try to make their way to the rim. Rivers goes out in the deal, but he’s not been a factor of late, or perhaps a negative. Pondexter’s salary next season is a little more than Rivers’ option that was not picked up. Russ Smith has not been even replacement level in his few NBA minutes, though he showed great effort. Dell Demps has used second round picks or just traded them in recent seasons. Thus, the pick is an asset to be used in a trade if nothing else. Pondexter’s deal is for 3 seasons beyond this one, but it’s relatively small value and the increasing cap should make it palatable provided his level of play picks up from recent levels.
  • Memphis Grizzlies
    • Receive from Pelicans: Russ Smith ($507,336 this season, $845,059, $980,431 following 2 seasons, both partially guaranteed)
    • Receive from Celtics: Jeff Green ($9,200,000 this season, $9,200,000 player option next season)
    • Send to Pelicans: Quincy Pondexter ($3,146,068 this season, $3,382,023, $3,617,978, $3,853,931 following 3 seasons), Memphis’ 2015 2nd round pick
    • Send to Celtics: Tayshaun Prince ($7,707,865 expiring), Memphis’ 1st round draft pick (protected, likely 2019 but uncertain due to complex protection on pick owed to Denver)
    • Analysis: The Grizzlies are trying not only to win the West, but also to win a title and to retain a free agent. By upgrading from Prince to Green, they are trying to further their progress toward these goals. Sending out a future first round pick to replace an aged payer (Prince will be 35 this season) for a player who will upgrade their weakest position as they battle to represent the West may also be their best shot to help retain their centerpiece, Marc Gasol, going into unrestricted free agency. Shipping out Pondexter weakens their small forward position from the best case they realistically could have, but Green’s additional salary this season puts the Grizzlies over the tax line, which is burdens the ownership and the front office. The burden to ownership is in the pocketbook, to the front office in certain trade restrictions. The upgrade itself and the tax pressure are then Memphis’ motivation to ship out Pondexter. Russ Smith is a defensive point guard prospect. Parting with a second round pick in exchange for taking Pondexter to enable the trade is a small cost once they have their prospect on a flexible deal for 2 more season, just as if they signed a second round pick to a standard minimum exception deal. Lastly, the structure of the deal allows Memphis to view the Green-Prince swap as one deal, Pondexter for Smith and a pick as another. Since minimum contracts can be ignored as incoming salary, viewing this as a non-simultaneous trade creates a trade exception for Memphis equal to Pondexter’s salary for this season, $3,146,068. This can be used in part or wholly, but unaggregated, to accept a player in trade for up to a year.
  • Boston Celtics
    • Receive from Pelicans: Austin Rivers (2,439,840 expiring)
    • Receive from Grizzlies: Tayshaun Prince ($7,707,865 expiring), Memphis’ 1st round draft pick (protected, likely 2019 but uncertain due to complex protection on pick owed to Denver)
    • Send to Pelicans: Nothing
    • Send to Grizzlies: Jeff Green ($9,200,000 this season, $9,200,000 player option next season)
    • Analysis: The Celtics are in a rebuild. Shedding salary commitments to Green (who has a player option for next season) speeds up their rebuild by guaranteeing more cap space for next season. Acquiring a future first round draft pick in the process also supports their rebuild. Rivers and Prince are both expiring, and the Celtics could try to sign them to small deals in lieu of the cap space or trade them individually. For them, the potential future roster is more important than the current on-court play of most players.

Looking Ahead

The Pelicans gave up some cap space going forward for someone who might be better than a mere stop gap but is likely not the final piece to the puzzle if this team is going to crack heads in the coming seasons. The merit of this trade falls mostly on how Pondexter fares. If he comes close to or exceeds his top year, then this is a rock solid move for Demps, but not a drops-the-mic-and-walks-off move. To the extent Pondexter fails to be a defensive presence with a low-mistake game and a moderately diverse offense, this trade starts to move away from being so rock solid. Secondary to this, the following factors will play into the trade: The eventual evolution of the small forward position in New Orleans, if this move hampers the team’s offseason, and how the rest of the bench is addressed.

Additionally, the conversion of Russ Smith into a second round draft pick could signal an additional move, whether it be this season or in the offseason. Dell Demps has used these picks to help make moves on a number of occasions. Without cap space this season, the most creative moves are not possible, the pick is a no-cost, no-roster-spot asset, and that could be valuable. John Salmons was reported to be an alternative to Austin Rivers for inclusion in the trade. Salmons can bring back $3,100,000 in trade, which can offer $1,100,000 in savings, and more for a tax team. Inclusion of minimum salary players can increase the potential savings for the trade partner by increasing the amount of salary the Pelicans can take back provided the Pelicans are willing to pay the increased salary bill.

We’ll be keeping an eye out for a subsequent move.

Looking Back

And here’s the picture you’ve all been waiting for . . . again . . .
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