When you play behind this season’s most pursued NBA point guard Kyle Lowry, it can be difficult to make an impression, especially on a team that you became a member of just three months ago.
Because for Toronto Raptors‘ backup floor-general Greivis Vasquez, it’s never been a matter of talent. Instead, the only thing that’s ever stood in the way of the proud Venezuelan’s development has been a lack of time on the court.
Averaging just under nine points a game with 4.3 assists, Vasquez joined the Raptors in early December as part of the trade that sent Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy to the Sacramento Kings. Along with forwards Patrick Patterson and John Salmons, in the eyes of Raptor-nation however, the former first-round draft pick was initially thought to be nothing more than a third of the consolation prize awarded for failing to hold on to the team’s top-scorer.
But both basketball junkies and general manager Masai Ujiri knew better, and Vasquez’s arrival was just the latest calculated move made by the franchise’s determined leader.
After initially meeting a 17-year-old Vasquez while in Caracas and participating in the NBA’s “Basketball Without Borders” program a decade ago, Ujiri recognized the young guard’s ability and potential to play in the NCAA. Wanting to help Vasquez achieve his dream of playing of plying his trade in the United States, Ujiri contacted a friend who also happened to be the head coach at Maryland’s Montrose Christian , and the talented ball-handler’s journey began.
Armed with four years of NCAA experience, Vasquez was selected by the Memphis Grizzlies late in the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft. But after seeing limited action in 70 games as a rookie with Memphis, Vasquez’s production saw only a mild increase the following year in New Orleans.
Last season with the Pelicans, however, the lightning-quick slasher proved that if given the minutes he can consistently perform among the league’s best point guards. In 78 starts, Vasquez averaged 13.9 PPG, 9.0 APG and 4.3 RPG in 2012-13, but more importantly, he did it while seeing a career-high 34.4 minutes per contest.
Yet, as things often go in professional sports, a three-team trade that included Tyreke Evans moving to New Orleans and Robin Lopez joining the Portland Trail Blazers, sent Vasquez to Sacramento where he would again have to compete for floor time in his 18 games as a member of the Kings.
Just as he was beginning to carve out a role for himself in California’s capital city, however, Vasquez was notified of the deal that would make him a Raptor and reunite the 27-year-old with his close friend Ujiri, a partnership that both parties hope to extend past this season.
Beyond simply providing Toronto with a solid backup to Lowry, the 6-foot-6 Vasquez also has the ability to cause serious matchup problems for opposing point guards due to a rare combination of size, speed and court vision.
And despite his pedestrian-like numbers this season, the Venezuelan has averaged 10.7 PPG with 3.5 APG over his last ten games, and will definitely be a significant part of any success that the Raptors will have in the upcoming playoffs.