If you’ve been disappointed in the performance of Greivis Vasquez since the Toronto Raptors acquired him on December 8, you’re not alone; nobody is more critical of his play so far in Toronto than the man himself.

Acquired in the Rudy Gay deal from the Sacramento Kings, Vasquez was expected to vastly improve the back-up point guard position and, perhaps, take over the reigns as starter when Kyle Lowry was inevitably dealt. The team’s success has changed the inevitability of the latter, but the former hasn’t come to fruition either. Vasquez is struggling since coming to Toronto, and there’s no arguing that fact.

It’s obvious from watching that Vasquez hasn’t quite found his role yet with the team. He’s the back-up point guard, sure, but he’s also used to getting heavy run over the past three years and is now a limited reserve. He’s also playing with mostly new teammates and, at times, sharing the floor with another point guard in Kyle Lowry. None of these are excuses, they are simply realities of suiting up for a new team.

If you haven’t been watching or don’t trust your eyes, consider the following comparison. The “Pre-Trade” row shows Vasquez’ production in his two-plus seasons before joining the Raptors and the “Post-Trade” row shows is production through 28 games in Toronto:

Greivis Vasquez MPG Pts/36 Ast/36 TS% PER
Pre-Trade 30 13.7 8.6 50.8 15.4
Post-Trade 19.5 12.9 7.3 45.3 10.4

This is no slouch that expectations got unreasonably high for, this is the man who led the NBA in total assists last season. There is a lot of offensive talent there, he just hasn’t been able to put it on display yet.

While he wouldn’t make the excuse when he spoke to Raptors Republic before the team’s current road trip, it’s not difficult to imagine that jumping from team to team would take its toll. He spent a year in Memphis, two in New Orleans, 18 games in Sacramento and now here he is. Maybe he’s an expert at working his way into new situations by now, but it’s also possible that the constant demands of learning new systems and new teammates has left him less time to focus on his own game.

With the trade to Toronto, even more obstacles manifested. Due to visa issues, Vasquez was apart from his young children at Christmas. This is also the first time he’s really struggled for a prolonged period, and one can only imagine the anxiety that would come with playing in a new city, with new teammates, and struggling, It’s a difficult job at the best of times; amid tumult, it’s surely exhausting.

Vasquez on free agency and Toronto
Vasquez is a restricted free agent following the season. The Raptors can qualify him with a $3.2 million offer to retain his rights, giving them the ability to match any offer Vasquez signs. With so much up in the air surrounding Lowry’s future and the direction of the team in general, it’s hard to get a feel for where Vasquez might fit long-term. Here’s Vasquez discussing the matter.

On his role
“I feel like eventually, not right now because it’s not important but being a starting point guard is my goal eventually…I want to show that I’m healthy and more than that I want to show that I’ve got my rhythm back and I’ve got my stuff back.”

On the city of Toronto
“You know what, I’ll tell you this man: If I get to choose where I can go, I don’t want to leave.”

On the future in general and how the team winning is good for everyone
“I don’t know what’s gonna happen. It’s gonna be a big summer for a lot of people. I’m not really worried. I think when you win, winning cures everything and when you’re winning every team is watching. Right now, I think we’re one of the most fun teams to watch in the NBA.”

To make matters worse, Vasquez entered the season coming off surgery on both ankles that kept him out of international competition for Venezuela and pretty much rendered him unable to train in the summer.

“The whole year has been rough for me, to be honest,” Vasquez said. “I’m not playing the way I really want to play but it’s not really about me, it’s about the team.

“I was out the whole summer. I’m the type of player, I have to do work continuously, on a consistent basis. I can’t just stop. I’m not the most athletic guy. Like (Russell) Westbrook will be out for six months and come back and be dunking on people.”

There are positive signs, however, that Vasquez could be finding his groove with the Raptors. His health has something to do with that.

“I had a rough time with my surgery but actually right now is the healthiest I feel,” Vasquez said. “I was dunking today in practice!”

Of late, he appears to have found a knack for hitting momentum-swinging threes, and as such his performance may, on the surface, feel better than it would otherwise. Big threes in a comeback stand out in the memory, and the availability heuristic makes it easy to think of Treyvis (he laughed at the nickname) as a clutch shooter. In reality, he’s a 32.2 percent career 3-point shooter and is hitting just 30.3 percent of those attempts with Toronto.

But he has been looking more involved, if not more efficient. In the past 10 games, he’s averaging 8.8 points, three rebounds and 5.1 assists compared to 5.9, 1.9 and 3.1 in the 18 games before that. His field goal percentage has jumped from 32.8 percent to 39 percent and, while he still doesn’t hit many, a greater proportion of his shots have been threes, which are still relatively more valuable than his twos.

Most importantly, the team is playing well. Vasquez was quick to remind me that while we were discussing him, his approach is a team-first one. Believe it or not from the boxscore stats, Vasquez hasn’t hindered that success at all. While the team’s offense slides from 107 points per 100 possessions (PPC) to 104.3 when Vasquez enters the game, the team’s defense has surprisingly improved from 103.8 PPC to 93.4

That’s surely overstating Vasquez’ defensive impact – he’s below-average defensively, at best – but the important part is that the team is winning, handedly, when he’s out there. His Net Rating of 10.9 is tops on the team, and while it’s only been 546 minutes, it’s tough to look at the totality of his play and say “this guy is a negative.” Sacramento played better without him, in part due to the lights-out play of Isaiah Thomas, but in both seasons with New Orleans the team was better at both ends with Vasquez on the floor.

The wrinkle that is most enticing given the team’s sudden lack of wing depth is that Vasquez and Kyle Lowry are flashing appreciable chemistry. When the Raptors run both point guards out (195 minutes in 22 games), the team is outscoring opponents by 11.7 PPC.

The impact is two-fold: Lowry’s defensive ability allows Vasquez to hide on the lesser of the opposing guards, and Vasquez’ playmaking frees up Lowry to play more off the ball, where he’s proving deadly. The Raptors assist on two-thirds of their made field goals when the pair is on the floor, a ridiculous rate. Lowry ranks third in the NBA in points per possession off of hand-offs, 13th in spot-up situations and 51st off of screens; playing him off the ball has been just as deadly as him handling the ball (he ranks 45th as a pick-and-roll ball-handler).

“Honestly, it’s easier to play with two point guards, especially when you’ve got two guys who are very unselfish, worried about winning,” said Lowry. “For me, it makes my job a lot easier because he can handle the ball. He makes great plays, he makes great decisions and I can get more open shots and that’s always a plus for our team.”

Lowry also enjoys getting to play off-ball, especially when DeMar DeRozan – who claims Lowry is “running all my plays” – is off the floor.

“It’s fun. You get a little tired, but it’s fun. I like it,” Lowry said.

This isn’t new for Vasquez. He split time with Thomas in Sacramento and spent a good chunk of his first year in New Orleans sharing the floor with Jarrett Jack. It also isn’t new for Lowry, who is familiar splitting time with Jose Calderon, Goran Dragic and Mike Conley.

“Agree,” said Vasquez when I made this point.

“The distribution of the ball, the management of the ball is just so much better and it’s hard to guard. As of right now, it’s working. The biggest thing is our chemistry. It’s spontaneous. It’s natural.”

Specifically, Vasquez identifies the pick-and-roll – his specialty – as the area where the Raptors are most able to make hay with the smaller look. He’s quick to credit Lowry, however, as the core reason teams can’t seem to score against the two-point guard lineup (two-PG looks are notoriously ineffective on defense).

“He’s playing at a high level right now, “said Vasquez. “We’ve all got to take advantage of that because you can play another point at the two or the three. Having a guy like Kyle is really important for us and he’s always going to help me.

“And we’re playing great defense, too, as a team. Kyle is the leader of the pack defensively, taking charges and all that, so he’s really covering for all of us.”

Of course, those whose support Vasquez has lost early in his tenure, and it seems there are plenty in the fanbase, will point to the fact that everybody is playing well right now, especially with Lowry. They’re not wrong, which is why we highlighted Vasquez’ moderate statistical improvements earlier. But the Venezuelan isn’t content with moderate improvement.

“Now I feel very healthy,” he said. “I expect myself to really pick it up the second half of the season and do a lot better. I think I can do so much better.

“I promise it’s going to be a different Greivis, for the better.”

  • Andre

    man that picture is OVER Saturated! (or maybe to much vibrance?) DANG the red looks orange!

    • smrt

      Actually the opposite, it’s over exposed and desaturated. Then the contrast is crushed a bit which makes the pic a noisy mess to look at.

      • Andre

        Yes! your right. I need to work on my terminology.

        • smrt

          I’ve been a professional in the film industry for over twenty years so I might have had a little advantage in my analysis;)

  • Mexiballer

    I think I counted at least five excuses that you gave him for why he should not be playing better. So it does sound like youre making excuses for him. He doesnt need any excuses or reasons for how hes playing. He says hes healthy. Hes playing with three of his former Kings team mates. He loves the locker room atmosphere. He wants to be here. The coaching staff has simplified things for him. Its all positives for him since he arrived. No excuses.

    I see something else. Its his game and the way he plays it. A lot of it looks mental. He telegraphs many of his passes and moves. He makes poor decisions while trying to make the difficult or showboat pass or play. He makes outright silly mistakes at times. He cant guard 90% of the point guards in this league. Make that 95%. If he makes a couple of shots he thinks his shooting form has returned and has to do multiple heat checks.

    Hes overly emotional, slightly hyper, and seems to get caught up in the moment. That is not a good recipe for a point guard especially in the playoffs. I wont mention that he can be annoying, talks to much, and says little.

    His quote in your article “I Promise its going to be a different Greivis”. He said the same thing in his first interview when he arrived. That this was a fresh start, that he was healthy, that this was a great situation for him, and that he was going to turn his bad start in Sacramento around. He also added that he wasnt going going to talk about it, that he was going to show it on the court.

    Twenty eight games later hes still talking about it and even promising. He knows how to talk that easy. I have seen that he can back that up with play. I dont know why you are making excuses for him. He doesnt need any, and he doesnt have any.

    • BlakeMurphy

      Ha, yeah, suppose there are a few excuses in there. But I’m relaying what he told me, keep in mind it’s not me saying it’s going to be a better Greivis. As much as there were excuses, I was also pretty critical of how he’s played so far.

      • Mexiballer

        For me the article did come across somewhat as making excuses for him. But fair enough if you are relaying his message. My point is that we can speculate about what he could or might do, but what he has actually done for the entire season and what he is doing now on the court is what I have been looking at. If he was injured, I would absolutely cut him a break. Many in the forums continue to allude to the fact that he was injured previously. But he has said he is healthy and feels good since the day he arrived. So that should be behind us, hes healthy and in game shape. I would be as happy as anyone if he could become a dependable back up that added to the teams success. I just havent seen that so far. But I would like to be proven wrong. Separately, the one thing you cant teach is speed. He is very slow and he is playing against the fastest players on the planet. Im not sure if that can be fixed even if he can clean up the rest of his game.

        • johnn_19_2000

          Do you watch the games, and know anything about basketball ???
          Vasquez is doing the job asked of him, with 2.3 RB, 4.0 AST, 7.0 PTS in 19.5 minutes as back up PG to Lowry. The Raptors are 19 wins 8 losses in the 28 games he has played.
          What more can you ask for ????

          • johnn_19_2000

            Sorry, 19 wins and 9 losses, math a little off.

          • Mexiballer

            I watch every game and I am very knowledgeable about basketball. I play the game too.

            What I could ask for is a back up who isnt shooting 38.7 from the field, doesnt take bad shots at inopportune times, and doesnt make bad decisions that often lead to transition baskets for the other team. I have little doubt that the coaching staff want the same things from him and have made it known. Ive noticed that he is doing way less free lancing the last few games and has started to make the simpler easy pass rather then the spectacular one. Thats a step in the right direction. So maybe its starting to get through to him.

      • http://www.facebook.com/asifyouknow Al Asifyouknow

        Mr. Blake disappointed that you felt you had to answer such a pointless and silly comment by Mexiballer.

        • budinski browne

          You’re Grievis Vasquez’s dad or brother, aren’t you? Gotta be. You shouldn’t be here, on a mostly anonymous fan site where fans tend to let loose, especially when they’re pissed about a player. Like now, I won’t say what I’d like to say about GV (it’s not good) because I’m pretty sure it’d be upsetting to you and I don’t want to do that. So gtfooh, will ya? And relax. He’ll be in the league for a while yet, probably. Which is better than you or me, right? So take your talents elsewhere. You really should.

    • http://www.facebook.com/asifyouknow Al Asifyouknow

      I still think you should the coach…but seriously you have no clue of what your talking about all your doing is a hit job for whatever reason.
      All the silliness I’ve heard you say tell me you are not a serious person or have nothing to offer a discussion, so this is the last time I address your silliness and I hope other folks do the same.
      If you hate the guy, hey, fair enough but you should not make up your own reality.
      Facts are your sitting there typing for free and he is getting paid to live his dream as an NBA Point Guard.
      Live isn’t fair is it? lol

      • Mexiballer

        Im on this forum to share my perspective. If it goes contrary to Blakes or your’s or anyone else’s perspectives, I cant help that. I like the way most every other player on the Raptors has contributed, including Hayes , Salmons, and Novak. So Im not criticizing Vasquez because slamming players is my thing. Its not. Im sharing my thoughts on Vasquez because I honestly think that the Raptors need to make an upgrade at back up point guard to get to the next level of consistency and be “successful” in the playoffs. Im willing to hear others opinions even if we disagree. You have offered almost nothing constructive or shared any kind of a reasonable counter points as to why he is worth keeping in his spot other than that he used to torch other teams when he was at Maryland. The scouting report on him coming out of Maryland and into the draft was that he was inconsistent, was a hot and cold shooter, had problems shooting from distance, and let his emotions got the best of him making his game unsteady. He is still working on those parts of his game. I really hope you mean it when you say that was the last time you will address my comments. I doubt it.

  • smrt

    Nice article Blake. I think it’s a great sign that he can come in, not being %100 healthy, not playing up to his potential and still be a net positive on the team. I think we’ll be seeing a much better Gravy after the break. Also, I just really like the guy:)

  • Ian Reynolds

    An important point about the 2 PG lineup is that Derozan and Ross are actually net-minuses when on the court together, despite being high positives separately. You can see more about it summarized here:


    If Greivis and Lowry are able to produce a +10 rating, or close to it, while sharing the floor alongside either one of Demar or Ross, that should only point to more success being had on both ends of the floor. In theory, anyway.

    I like Greivis’ game, and hope his body heals up, because I think he’s a fantastic 3rd guard to have around on a reasonable deal.

  • DC

    My glass is also half-full. Go Greivis!

  • Skip2MyLou

    I think the Raptors need to keep everyone this off season (if possible/reasonable)
    Keep Lowry, Vasquez, 2Pat and add a draft pick for depth.

    • webfeat

      I think Salmons needs to go because of his salary. Other than that, I have no problems with the rest of the players, even Fields.

      • raptorstand

        There is something to be said for continuation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/asifyouknow Al Asifyouknow

    There is no one on this board, including the gentleman who wrote this article, that knows as much about Vasquez than I do.
    I followed every game since the Terps days. Let me say this one more time :
    The Vasquez you are seeing is a 75% Vasquez, how can I tell ? Because he does not move like he did, because the floater that was automatic is not falling, because drive with the high of the board shot is not happening, because I have not seen him dunk a basketball on a steal or break. Many of those things are not happening because he (probably) don’t want to put stress on the foot until it gains strength. Just in case you did not know it was foot surgery.
    He had no off season to work on his game, could not run, probably could not lift weights or work on his shot, he came into Sacramento still in therapy.
    Most players come into training camp ready to go. I expected this year to be a rehab year for him. I figure he land a back-up job and heal for next year but unfortunately Malone wanted him to start. I could see right away something was wrong ( I don’t know that for sure but I’ve watched him for years, I just knew something was not right).
    I’m glad he is here and building his game as a back-up, eventually his game will come back and next year he will land a good gig.
    So for the Vaz hater just remenber is only for this year, next year he will help another team win as he has Toronto.
    According to his coach he has been a big part of what’s going on, of course that is just Casey talking, I understand that are fans here who know basketball better than Casey and think Vaz is terrible.
    Again, is only one year folks don’t get frustrade , he will be gone soon.
    Funny thing, I was reading a Grizzlies blogs and fans are now wishing Vaz was back they cant find a back-up (for Conley) who can run the team, lol,

    • DDayLewis

      You’re the new ppellico for Vasquez, aren’t you?

      • http://www.facebook.com/asifyouknow Al Asifyouknow

        Not really……. I just like to call out stupidity, if I don’t there would be only the hater point view on this blogs…that is fair play in my book… How about in yours?

        • DDayLewis

          No, you’re just here to attack anyone who has anything remotely critical (fair or unfair) to say about Vasquez.

          • http://www.facebook.com/asifyouknow Al Asifyouknow

            Whatever justification makes you comfortable is fine with me. I call out people with my point of view, is a debate.
            Your friend Maxiballer and you are simply doing a hit job and not really have anything serious to say. So I really feel is just not worth talking to you guys. Lets leave it here, you keep on doing what you doing and I keep doing what I do. Have a nice day.

            • DDayLewis

              Here’s a better idea: stop attacking the commentors, or find another site to troll

              • http://www.facebook.com/asifyouknow Al Asifyouknow

                Here is a better idea grow up and let it go…Fair?

              • raptorstand

                The definition of a troll is someone that is not a fan of the team and or negative towards the players in a sardonic snarky way. this guy is standing for a player on the Toronto Raptors, the only troll I see is the guy continuously ripping a player on the Toronto Raptors.

                • DDayLewis

                  No, that’s really not the definition of trolling. Don’t Blake’s article into a discussion over this topic yet again.

                • raptorstand

                  Really? now we are going to debate trolls lolol The article was a great read , gave some background to his troubles.

          • raptorstand

            The thing is Vas has not played the way all of us have wanted, but anyone with eyes is able to see the guy is playing at 75% , I am not going to rip the guy , hes a proven player, I think we will see him do better.

  • A. Finol

    I don’t get the point sometimes guys, all of us who support the Raps and
    especially the ones who have been watching Vaz for a long time were wondering
    what was going on with him, because the drop in his game and aptitude was
    pretty obvious. Thanks to Blake’s article now we can put the things on a better
    perspective and get to appreciate a young player like Vaz.

    I’m very glad to see that I’m not the only one who believes that
    Vaz can keep helping this team in & out the court. I respect the comments
    of some of you who don’t really know Vaz very well, but I’m agree with Al
    Asifyouknow, Vaz is an “all commitment” type of player and if he said
    he is feeling better and will improve… I’m with him.

    I was really happy when I heard he got traded to the raps,
    because I’ve seen his game and what he is capable of, but they guy is also a

    The team in general is doing pretty good, Klow and DD are
    killing the league… TR and JV are under development but showing a promising
    future and we got good guys for our bench as 2PAT!!!.

    Why we complain about it?… why we diminish their efforts as players?…
    Let’s support the team and enjoy the ball game…

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