What’s up with Tyreke?

Published: November 13, 2013

When New Orleans acquired Tyreke Evans in a three-team trade that sent Greivis Vasquez to Sacramento and Robin Lopez to Portland, the move was met with a wide range of emotions. There was some pure excitement, some reserved excitement, and some pessimism due to the amount of his contract. The one thing that seemingly no one questioned, however, was his ability to be a valued contributor to this Pelicans team. Ironically enough, he has been anything but that throughout his first eight games, struggling to get into any kind of rhythm as his PER of 6.64 indicates. The fact that he missed most of the preseason is one that cannot be ignored, but his overall performance thus far begs the question – what’s the problem? After checking out a lot of game film from Evans so far this year, I have both some data-driven and visually-driven explanations. First, the numbers, and then how the film supports those numbers.


1. Issue: FG% at the rim & total FT attempts

  • What the numbers say: Evans made about 59% of his attempts at the rim in 2012-13, effectively using his strength and athleticism to get good looks and get to the line (4.8 trips per 36 minutes). This season, he is actually getting inside for about the same percentage of his shots; he’s just not making nearly as many or earning free throws from them, converting 45.5% through 8 games (a negative trend that the whole team is experiencing) along with only shooting 2.9 free throws per 36 minutes, easily a career low. Given both his relatively proportional percentage of field goal attempts at the rim coupled with the fact that he is actually attempting about two more shots per 36 minutes than he did last season, this statistic is more difficult to explain without visual backup.
  • What the film shows: A bit of bad luck, but mostly poor floor spacing. Evans has earned some good looks inside, but a few of them have just rolled around the rim and not fallen. He is 20 for 44 in the restricted area this season, so that distance’s FG% would look a lot better if just a couple more of those shots had fallen. That being said, getting to the rim is nice, but it doesn’t matter much if you’re met by two defenders the majority of the time when you get there. One of the main reasons that this is possible is because the Pelicans don’t force opponents to extend their defense out to the perimeter. There is no question that when teams play New Orleans, they know that the Pelicans attempt by far the fewest the pointers in the league. With that being the case, the most efficient shot location remaining is the area right around the rim, so the logical strategy would be to prevent easy looks from that area at all costs. The result? Teams are doing exactly what the Pelicans try to do to them – pack the paint and force them to beat you from deep. The difference is that, unlike New Orleans, other teams actually shoot threes. In order for Tyreke (along with the rest of the team) to become more efficient at the rim, the Pelicans need to place greater emphasis on spacing the floor and spreading out the opposing defense.

2. Issue: Shot Selection

  • What the numbers say: So far this season, Evans has attempted about 37% of his shots from areas other than the three-point line or right at the rim. Doesn’t sound like too much, right? Well, as it turns out, only 25% of his attempts came from those areas last season. Simply put, Tyreke is taking too many mid-range jumpers (another theme of this 2013-14 Pelicans team).
  • What the film shows: While Tyreke’s decision-making is certainly problematic at times, there is also too much isolation and teammates standing around. The Pelicans have deployed Evans in a few effective pick and roll ball handler opportunities, but far too frequently, he goes out of his way to create on his own and either chucks up a mid-range jumper with a defender in his face or runs into double teams around 5-10 feet from the rim and then takes a tough shot or turns the ball over instead of passing it out to a teammate. It’s almost as if Evans has this pre-existing reputation of being able to get into the lane at will, so everyone else just stands like statues and waits to get a kick-out. For Evans to be most effective, he cannot be the only offensive player moving, but he also has to be a more willing passer when he attacks so that he can turn collapsing defenders into open looks for teammates.

3. Issue: 3-point attempts

  • What the numbers say: Based on the first two observations, simple math could get you to this conclusion. While Evans is by no means a great shooter from this distance, there is the potential for significant value added if Evans were to start turning some of those long 2-point attempts into 3-pointers.
  • What the film shows: Evans is just 1-6 from long range this season, a total far too small to legitimately scrutinize. That being said, his ratio of long 2-pointers to 3-pointers is one that should indeed be assessed, as some of those mid-range attempts are step-back jumpers just inside the 3-point line. Reducing the amount of isolation plays that he runs, especially early in the shot clock, would be a good first step.


To sum up all of these observations: Tyreke Evans’ troubles are a microcosm of the offensive issues for the entire team. If Evans improves, it will likely be a direct result of adjustments that will benefit the team as a whole. Yes, the return of Ryan Anderson’s sharp shooting will help, but for Tyreke Evans to reach the level that most people hoped to see, more widespread changes to both Evans’ shot selection as well as the Pelicans’ offensive game plan will have to occur.


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