What’s Wrong With Tyreke?

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Published: February 8, 2014
Tyreke Evans

It seems like we have seen flashes this season of the guy that Dell Demps and Monty Williams targeted at 12:01 a.m. on the first day of free agency. He has had nights where he has got to the rim at will or been the primary creator. He has one triple-double, and on several other nights he came really close. And who can forget the game winner against Portland?

But sprinkled in with all of those great games and moments were some real stinkers, and coming off another one last night, people are starting to really wonder what is wrong with Tyreke. This question is not a new one, as concerns first surfaced early on in the season before Ryan Anderson played in his first regular season game. Monty called him out after the game for “not finding his teammates,” which we all know is code for being an out of control ball hog. Monty has also said in the past that it has been an adjustment figuring out how to coach Tyreke and that he Tyreke to develop a mid-range game. All very nice ways of saying some pretty strong things. If we remove the sugar-coating, Monty appears frustrated by how limited Tyreke is offensively, and how low his basketball IQ can be on the offensive end at times. I don’t think any fans would disagree, though it must be said that when Tyreke is on his game, he’s magnificent.

So, why isn’t he on more, and what adjustments can be made to get him back on track? Well, the tape and the stats give us a couple answers.

Problems

1. Tyreke Evans has been terrible when Ryan Anderson is off the floor

The numbers are astounding. Tyreke Evans goes from a below average NBA player to a quasi-star when you put him on the court with Ryan Anderson. So far this year, he has played 622 minutes without Ryan Anderson and 409 with him, and the stats are as follows.

SituationFG %Points per 36 minsRebs per 36 minsAssists per 36 minsTurnovers per 36 mins
With Anderson41.7%19.458.016.522.64
Without Anderson39.1%17.365.215.783.30

As you can see, he is less effective offensively at both finishing and creating for others with Anderson not out there to space the floor. And while those numbers are glaring, the most shocking one is not even included in the table because it has to do with the teams’ performance. When Tyreke is on the floor with Anderson, the Pelicans are +52. When Tyreke is on the court, and Anderson is not, the Pelicans are -119 as a team. So, on average, a unit with Tyreke but not Ryno would get beat in a 48 minute game by 9.5 points while a team with both Tyreke and Ryno would win that same game by 6 points. A 15.5 point swing over 48 minutes.

Evans tends to take far more jumpers from mid-range when Anderson is off the court as well, as he shoots 9% of his shots in that area when Anderson is on verse 15.5% when he is off the court. Meanwhile, he takes nearly 76% of his shots within five feet when Ryan Anderson on the court, and as you would expect, he makes those at a much higher rate.

2. Evans is often forced to play with two lane cloggers

This goes hand in hand with the first point, as the loss of Ryan Anderson and Jason Smith means that Evans has had to play with two centers clogging up the lane while Anthony Davis is getting a rest. And if not two lane clogging bigs, then one lane clogging big and Aminu at the small ball four. Either way, there is little to no space. And that’s why it is no coincidence that the Evans-Aminu-Stiemsma, the Evans-Aminu-Withey, and the Evans-Withey-Steimsma are some of the worst three-man lineups Monty has ever put on the court.

Those three lineups have played 125 minutes this year and the Pelicans are shooting 30.4% from the field and are a -32.6 per 48 minutes with those three-man lineups collectively. Let that sink in. The Aminu-Evans-Stiemsma threesome is especially atrocious, as it has been on the court for 78 minutes since Anderson went down, and the Pelicans are averaging 69 points per 48 minutes with it on the floor.

Aminu, maybe more than anybody else is Tyreke’s kryptonite, as Evans shoots 51% in the restricted area when Aminu is off the court and just 42% when he is on the court. Overall, Evans shoots 5% higher with Aminu off the court, and his turnover percentage decreases by over 50% without Aminu. The simple truth is that you need shooting on the court if you are going to make Evans a primary offensive option, or at least have the threat of it out there.

3. Injuries have derailed Evans

Not only has Evans missed 7 games this year, but he has also been less than 100% for several others. Evans has come back early from a few injuries, and/or has been out of game shape and had to work himself back into it on the fly. After missing practically the entire preseason, Evans played in the season opener and later admitted he wasn’t quite in game shape until the Utah game at home. In those first 8 games when he was getting back into shape, Evans averaged just 7.8 points on 32% shooting. Then, he hit his stride and had a very good stretch through mid-December before going down again with an ankle injury he tried to play through.

His first game back from that ankle injury was a rough one, as he went 2-10 in LA. But then, he got 3 days off and with Ryan Anderson in tow, he was unleashed. In the seven games between then and the Ryan Anderson injury, Evans  averaged 19 points, 7.2 assists,  and 6.9 rebounds on 46% shooting in just 30.4 minutes per game. Those are phenomenal numbers. People chuckled when they heard the plan was for Evans to play a Ginobli-esque role with the Pelicans, but quite honestly, those numbers morph most of Ginobli’s best seasons.

But then Anderson went down and Evans got banged up again. First, at home against Dallas, and then against Sacramento. He returned and played okay, but then a shot to the ribs against San Antonio and he is struggling again, as seen by last night’s effort against Minnesota. When healthy and surrounded by good shooters, Tyreke has been a beast, but unfortunately we haven’t seen much of that this year.

Solutions

1. Build the Second Unit around Tyreke

Point blank, Aminu and Tyreke just can’t be on the floor together. When one is in, the other must be out. So when Tyreke is in, the Pelicans need to put Anthony Morrow on the opposite wing or in the corner, ready to catch and shoot. Austin Rivers, surprisingly, has become an elite catch and shoot player this year, nailing nearly 50% of his shots in those situations. At the four and five, you need to either have one three-point threat and a lane clogger or two mid-range threats. So, Davis and Ajinca could work, as could Stiemsma and Babbitt. What you can’t have is two guys who pose no threat from the outside, because teams just use one to show on the pick and roll and the other just camps in the paint. Finishing with a front court of Evans, Babbitt, and Davis seems ideal.

2. Put Evans on the block more

Evans has had quite a bit of success in the low post throughout his career, and this season is no different. Against SG’s, he has an incredible strength advantage, and he is usually quicker than most SF’s. Prior to his injury against San Antonio put him in the low post against Marco Belinelli, and Evans abused him for an easy bucket. If Monty puts Evans in the post with a collection of guys that have to be respected from the perimeter, the field goal percentage should rise while the turnovers plummet.

3. Continue to develop Luke Babbitt

If Ryan Anderson doesn’t come back this year, Tyreke Evans will need Babbitt to play the same role Anderson did to have any chance at being successful. Babbitt doesn’t have to shoot the ball like Anderson, he just has to be respected like Anderson was. Last night, Babbitt’s defender was often 16-20 feet away from the rim when he was in the game. Stiemsma or Withey’s man is never more than 6-8 feet away, and that makes things so much harder for Tyreke.

In order for Monty to continue to play Babbitt, Luke will have to pick up the defense quickly and maintain the same type of energy we saw last night. He doesn’t have to be a stopper on the defensive end, but he can’t be a gaping wound either. Solid play on that end, combined with effort and hustle on the glass, and we should see more production from Evans.

Conclusion

Tyreke Evans is not a bad player, and he isn’t an elite player. He is a specialist who needs to be in the right environment to contribute at a high level for his team. We can say that, “if Tyreke only would develop a jump shot…” all day long, but the truth is that the best he likely get to is below average (from horrible). He has worked on his jump shot for years, and there has been only slight improvement. It is not a laziness issue; some guys are just not capable of excelling in that area. Tony Allen is one of the hardest working guys in the NBA and he has never developed consistent range, for instance.

But he doesn’t necessarily need that to be a great player or to earn his paycheck. We have seen him have an enormous impact on this team when healthy, and when he was put into lineups that complimented him. Evans has some components of his game that he still has to work on, so don’t mistake this as me saying that he is blameless for his recent struggles, but a much bigger part of the equation is figuring out how to get the most out of his current skill sets.

We have enough data to know who he can play with and who he can not perform with at a high level. Dell Demps made a bold move to go get perhaps the best version on Ryan Anderson available on the market in Luke Babbitt, and now Monty Williams has to try and use him in a similar capacity. That should open some lanes for Evans, and eventually we should see the production increase again. The rib injury might not be fully healed until after All-Star break, but there is reason to be cautiously optimistic that full health + Luke Babbitt will equal a return to the norm for Tyreke.

21 comments
Al Tungupon
Al Tungupon

Tyreke Evans deserves to start for a better team. Enough said

xman20002000
xman20002000

Look..  have you noticed all the put backs AD has resulting from Evans missing layups....  He needs an outside shot...considering bigs are blasting him in the paint...  We really miss Holiday...  and Anderson for that matter..  Smith gets a pass...  on the bright side I really like Luke Babbitt with this group...  He appears the SF we need...  Maybe Evans does need to watch games considering he is not delivering and perhaps the reason the Kings were willing to let him go...  As the 6th man... we expect hm to take over games... aka James Hardin.. 

PYREXVISION_
PYREXVISION_

Tyreke should have been in the starting lineup a long time ago. Sometimes the most frustrating thing is even when he's creating for others, getting assists, rebounds, buckets, etc. those are the games Monty gives him less than 30 minutes. 

He's a utility guy with a unique skill set he really needs to be getting more minutes to get more acclimated to the flow of the game. 

On top of that with Ryan Anderson being out, Tyreke has been most effective when AD is out on the floor. With his skillset he needs somebody to throw the ball to that is a threat to score and sometimes even bail him out. Very easy to see this just from watching the games. 

Its hard to be effective in the second unit when the opposing coach is telling his team key in on Tyreke and don't let him get into the lane. Combine that he's the only real threat to score and create and this is the result we're getting. 

Tyreke is simply better and more effective when playing with better players. Similar to Lance Stephenson, who's inserted into the pacers lineup where hes the 3rd or fourth option to score, it enhances his playmaking ability where he can affect the game in a way only Lance Stephenson can. Tyreke is a unique one of a kind player like this, you've got to let him run with the other good players to reap the benefits of his game. 

Look at the advanced statistics its clear this is the case. The man is better when playing with starter caliber players! Not just Ryan Anderson, but consider when hes playing with Jrue, AD, and even Gordon in the same lineup! Then ask yourself what good is a playmaker when he's playing with backups?


"General basketball science states a player who can create for himself and create for others is more effective when playing with other good players." - Wise Man

thouse
thouse

Interesting post and topic.

I believe you overstate the effectiveness of Evans with Anderson on the court. All of his shooting %s go down, but we're talking 41 to 39 (FG%), 49 to 47 (TS%), 42 to 40 (eFG%). Evans has been mediocre, no matter who is on the court, for the season aside from the hot stretch you mention. What's been most shocking to me is how his touch at the rim has abandoned him. He has been among the best guards at finishing there for years, now he is worse than Austin Rivers. Weird.

You are spot on with the double bigs and Evans. He needs space. Davis needs the space. All the attacking guards need the space. That isn't there with Steimsma, Anjica, Withey. I don't like double bigs, but they have been working well recently.

And I have been shocked they haven't used Evans in the post more. Maybe Monty's hand has been forced due to Anderson's injuries, but I was looking forward to Evans dealing out of the post with Anderson and Morrow spotting up.

Aminu is tough. Do you know of any site that can really separate his minutes at the 4 vs at the 3? He and Evans are bad together unless Anderson is in. Their 3 man numbers though are actually quite good. 

Aminu is useful for defending the big 3s in the league, but otherwise he needs to be playing small ball 4 and tied with Anderson as much as possible. They seem to be great complements to each other. With perfect health, I would love to see Rivers/Morrow/Evans/Aminu/Anderson as a bench unit. That could be fun.

Also, where do you get your numbers? NBA.com, NBAwowy, Basketball-Reference, etc?

wilthomas178
wilthomas178

the future pelican bench..

1 pierre jackson..

2. tyreke, 

3.morrow-or miller, 

4.anderson 

5. and withey


that might be more exciting than the starting lineup...

Sportnlyfe
Sportnlyfe

Totally agree, and frankly can't see why this is not something the coaching staff wouldn't know and address. There's how many suits taking notes on the bench during the game and none of them charting these data points? Along with the Steimsma crush (and/ or hostage-taking situation, take your pick), this is one of the great mysteries of this season, that they would have chosen to bring in Tyreke (counter-intuitively, if you believe all the ESPN basketball writers) to run that belly play up the gut of the defense. They must also know it won't happen with Tyreke on two bad ankles running into a packed lane when they have no floor-spacing. Teams are keeping their centers close to the rim and telling the wings to jump the passing lanes, leading to more turnovers and other momentum-killers. I think Tyreke is in danger of psychologically being undermined by putting him into a no-win situation, even though the fans so far are still with him. 

We've known that Dell had this change-of-pace concept in mind since last year, when he was hyped on Dario Saric. It was to create a running game to go with the air game that Anderson gives them. Suck the wings in with Tyreke's runs, spread them out with three-point shooters. The concept works when all the pieces are at full go, but now that they're not, the team is sort of hanging Tyreke out to dry by not giving him the tools he needs to excel. I had a really good seat near the Pelican's end at the game last night and could see his face when he kept hitting the floor and losing the ball, and his body language said a lot about the toll it's taking on him to try to help out while not at full speed, only to make matters worse. His minutes now seem to coincide with the second and third-quarter droughts, and when he comes in and he's not the solution but a part of the problem, as he increasingly is, it's taking a toll. The coaches need to figure this out fast before he loses his greatest asset, his self-confidence.

mojart
mojart

A ryno-reke-morrow-rivers-smith is our original 2nd unit....but because of injuries we did not see a lot from this group together...maybe you can show us a stats on how this group performs together against the 2nd unit of other teams when they are all healthy....

dxxpxx
dxxpxx

Nice piece. I think Tyreke-Rivers-Morrow/Miller-Babbitt-Withey would work well. Monty has been getting a little better with his rotations so hopefully he realizes he has to find a better lineup for Reke

soulbreaker
soulbreaker

agree with pretty much everything except the "ball hog" thing from Monty, you can say that with every other guard in the team(Gordon is a worst passer,Rivers is to young and to AAU style,Roberts is Roberts, and so on) too, so i don´t think/hope that was what he meant.Btw i agree he´s not a top 10 BB IQ in the league, but he is not below avg either(Gordon is bottom 30 easily), he´s young , Monty´s system is no the best fit for him,and his last organization was a disaster, and like you say with some common sense he can be an amazing player, we just have to wait.Franckly i´d like to shut him down till his ankle is 100% again, this season is over and he has been playing through the pain all of it, and that is without Monty just forgetting him on the bench...

504ever
504ever

Wish there was an article "like" button that didn't share on social media.

I was as big a Robin Lopez proponent as their was on this site, for all of the reasons mentioned in the recent True Hoop article on the Pelicans:  high PER, solid center skills, cheap contract, and highly productive (rarely missed a game).  

I miss Lopez, but I think Tyreke's skills are harder to find.  Look at the Spurs.  They find post players and even 3 pt shooters to put around drivers like Parker and Manu.  Give us time to find the 3 point shooters and big men, many of whom may already be on the roster.

Jason Quigley
Jason Quigley

And didn't you guys have a piece a while back about how Tyreke and Holiday play great together? Without Jrue and Ryno, of course it's gonna be tough for him.  Hoping Babbitt can help him. Though Miller should have been able to do the same thing... 

kwilly
kwilly

I certainly would rather have Robin Lopez.

mateor
mateor

He has not been playing very well lately. I am rooting for an improvement, he is a fun player.

Jason Quigley
Jason Quigley

@PYREXVISION_  This makes a lot of sense. Tyreke has never really been in a winning situation other than early this season when players were mostly healthy (Sacramento never had more than 28 wins during his 4-year stay). Earlier this year he was playing some really good basketball, especially for being injured, so obviously this is is an internal issue as Monty said. I don't know if it's the bad teams affecting him or the fact that he's had to share floor time with bad or developing players, but it's obviously negatively affecting him and that sucks. 

But the idea to start him could have some problems with our current roster. Replacing Aminu with Tyreke would make the bench not as good because it's Aminu. Having Gordon on the bench would probably create some "internal issues" with Gordon...so what can you do? I say take Aminu out and start Tyreke, because our bench has been playing better seemingly without him, and the starters would obviously be much better, and Tyreke should be happier! If only it were that simple...

But since our players are all young, this really shouldn't be an issue. When your oldest player is Brian Roberts (not sure) and your core is all 25 or under...it's okay to take risks sometimes. 

xman20002000
xman20002000

@PYREXVISION_   Evans has been playing horribly...  perhaps its his injury but is he relying on his athletic ability and also putting the work in...  Now the Nets are one of the oldest teams in the league...  winning when necessary but we just got a poor scoring start... Seems like were Evans on his game he could have sparked something... but he is hesitant to take a corner shot or a shot from the perimeter...  Is he getting paid to pass the ball occasionally and make lay ups...

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara moderator

@thouse  According th bball reference, Aminu gets 82% of his minutes at SF this year, 18% at PF. 

Most of my stats I get via the NBA.com Media Tool. 

While the 41.7% shooting is by no means ideal, it is an improvement, and to me the major increase in his assist to turnover ratio is more important. In that Finishing Five unit, he is the teams' playmaker, so I personally care more about that than his scoring. 

But thanks for the thought out feedback - I agree that we need to see him more in the post and I look forward to seeing how Monty plays it from here. 

mateor
mateor

@soulbreaker  My least favorite thing about Monty Williams is his tendency to call players out in the media. He is pretty open about blaming them for losses and mistakes.

thouse
thouse

@Michael McNamara

I agree on the playmaking aspect. That is his strength. 

I've been puzzled lately as to why the designated pg (Roberts or Rivers) has to bring the ball up the court every time. Seems like a waste of time with Evans, Gordon on the court