Sometimes it is all about finding the right fit for a player to succeed and the overtly happy-to-be-in-Toronto Greivis Vasquez likes the situation he has found himself in. The Raptors wanted to move the ball better after falling to dead last for assists in the NBA before the Rudy Gay trade and this pass-first point guard is more than ready to oblige.
“It is just being in the right fit,” Vasquez said. “When you are not in the right fit, then every weakness of yours is going to stick out. This is going to be a great fit for me and I feel like it is going to work out pretty good.”
The Raptors had a pass-first point guard in Jose Calderon who they traded for Gay in January. Now with Vasquez being the key player coming back to Toronto when Gay was traded again 10 months later, comparisons between the 2 guards were bound to come up. Vasquez has known Calderon for a while and has played against him internationally. He is honored to be compared with the NBA veteran.
“I am a pass-first point guard – I always looked up to (Calderon),” Vasquez said. “It’s a privilege that people think we have some similarities because I think we do. He has been a guy that has been in the league for so long and is a very class act as a player and as a person too. I watched him when he was here. I played against him when I was younger on the National teams and now I am friends with him. He is very humble and that is why he has such success in this league.”
The comparisons with Calderon inevitably lead to the defensive end of the court as well. Vasquez is not the quickest player, but he does have size. At 6’5 in bare feet – 6’6.5 in shoes as measured at NBA draft camp – Vasquez is a big point guard who knows how to use his height and can switch off onto shooting guards and wings without being too small to guard his man.
“Defense is just something personal,” Vasquez said. “You just have to take it personally and execute it as a team – team defense. You have to know a guy’s tendencies. I am not the best defender, but I think I am smart enough to give them space and I am 6’5 point guard, so that is going to help me. I can always get better when I come to a system like this because I was with Monty Williams – a great defensive coach, Coach Malone and now Coach Casey, so I think I will be alright.
“In the NBA it is hard to guard 1-on-1. To me, the team defense has to execute our plan. It doesn’t really come down to 1 guy. A lot of guys are hard to guard 1-on-1. You see just a few guys that can contain the ball like that – Tony Allen from the top of my head, but if you watch San Antonio – they get criticized saying they are old, but they are one of the best defensive teams in the league, so how can they do it and we can’t do it, we are younger.”
Often overlooked is Vasquez’s ability to score. He averaged 19.6 points per game as a senior at Maryland. When needed, Vasquez has put the ball in the basket. He has a nice running floater in the lane and he can shoot from the three-point line, but he looks for his scoring to come in the flow of the offense and as part of keeping defenses honest.
“I needed to score more (in college) and my team needed me to score,” Vasquez explained. “When you come (to the NBA), the guys here need to get their shots up, so you got to get them some shots. As the point guard, it is always good when you keep everything in balance.
“I can score, but my best is not to score, (rather) it is to find my teammates and put my teammates in a great position to score, so hopefully every game I can do that as I have been doing my whole career. I just have to be patient. I just have to play and have fun. That’s the biggest thing for me, to play and have fun and enjoy what I do. It is a privilege to play in the NBA.
“I believe I can score 12-14 points, but I am not looking for the scoring part, that will come when you are in the right (spot). When you run pick-and-roll and keeping the defense off balance a little bit, that’s when the scoring will come for me. For me, it is about making my teammates better, being unselfish and being a leader.”
Vasquez has made a big impression coming off the bench in his first 2 games with the Raptors, particularly in the fourth quarters as Toronto was fighting for a victory; he set up his teammates and scored some key buckets when it mattered in both games. It’s still very early in Vasquez’s time with the Raptors, but the fit has looked good so far and the almost over-the-top enthusiasm is probably helping with the quick transition.