Season in Review: What The Hell To Do With Tyreke Evans

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Published: May 1, 2016

Tyreke Evans has been one of the most polarizing Pelicans for fans over the past 3 seasons. His ability to stuff the stat sheet leaves him among elite company, with stars like Russell Westbrook, Lebron James, and Draymond Green. However, his bad habits and decision making have left many wondering how much his stat-stuffing actually helps the team.

The Pelicans are in a tough spot. They need to make changes to a roster that could not stay healthy, could not adapt to Alvin Gentry’s offense, and could not muster up anything that looked passable on defense. New Orleans is not the most attractive Free Agent destination at the moment, and Evans could very well be their only and best trade piece (apart from this year’s draft pick).

On top of that, Evans only has 1 year left on his contract (which is very affordable by the way). Keeping him past this summer could see his trade value diminish, as we saw last season with Ryan Anderson, expiring contracts are not as valuable when every team has cap space. There might be a team desperate enough to look at him at the trade deadline, however, that is far from a given.

But Evans is also easily one of the top 3 talents the Pelicans have at the moment, and he has a good relationship with the other two (Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday). Without him there would be no playoffs in 2014-15. If moving him doesn’t improve the team on the court for next season, I highly doubt GM Dell Demps will pull the trigger. But if they don’t move him, they run the risk of losing him for nothing next year, or worse, overpaying to keep him. So what the hell do the Pels do?

2015-16

Production

With just 25 games played due to injury, Tyreke Evans’ season remains hard to judge, much like the rest of this Pelicans’ team. From a statistical standpoint, Evans very well could have been on his way to a career year. On a per minute basis, he produced nearly identical numbers to last season, when he was the 2nd best player on a playoff team. In fact, he produced slightly more with better efficiency.

Per36*

2014-15 – 79 games, 17.6 points, 7.0 assists, 5.6 rebounds, and a TS% of 50.8

2015-16 – 25 games, 17.8 points, 7.7 assists, 6.1 rebounds, and a TS% of 53.4

One big contributor to this improvement was simply a better looking shot. He attempted and made 3’s at the highest rate of his career. 38.8% from 3pt range is a full 10% higher than his career average of 28.8. He also bounced back from career lows in FT% and FTA per36, making a career high 79.6% of his FTs this season.

Yes, simply making more 3’s and Free’s gave Evans the 2nd highest TS% of his career, but he struggled where he normally excels. In his 25 games, Evans only managed to shoot 50.9% within 3 feet of the basket, a career low and 8% off his career average of 58.9. The knee injury that forced him to miss preseason as well as the first 17 games of the season undoubtedly played a factor.

Lots of highs, lots of lows, and not a lot of minutes. It is possible some of his numbers would have improved had he gotten “fit,” he’s been criticized before as a guy who has to “play his way into shape.” But it is also possible that some of those highs (like the 3pt%) would have come back down closer to his norm as well.

“Fit”

Looking past his production, his play on the court unfortunately had more lows than highs. His adjustment to the style coach Alvin Gentry was brought in to establish was … lets say rocky.

“We kinda just thrust him in and said, ok, this is the way we play…he had great moments for us, and I think he struggled some too.”

– Alvin Gentry

It is easy to remember the times he struggled, mainly because there were more of those moments than great ones. The Christmas Day Miami game comes to mind, where Evans forced Gentry to use 2 crucial, consecutive timeouts because he couldn’t remember the play. There was also the time he proclaimed to be at odds with what Gentry wanted from him. After a horrible loss to Boston on December 7th where Evans went scoreless with 3 assists and a – 15 in almost 18 minutes, Tyreke had this to say:

“I started to look to pass first…that’s when it kind of went south on me, instead of just doing what I do, and that’s attack and if I see somebody open, find them. My mindset (tonight) was just pass first, but that isn’t the way I play. I play attack first, and if somebody’s open I find them. I just got to do a better job with that.”

Naturally that didn’t go over too well. Looking at the advanced stats just for the time frame when Evans was actually available to play (from 12/1 to 1/25), his -0.9 Net-Rating sits 10th on the team. During that 56-day span, Evans was the only one of the former “finishing five” of Davis, Anderson, Evans, Gordon, and Holiday to have a negative rating. With him on the court the Pels could only muster a Pace of 95.42 possessions per 48 minutes, 3rd slowest on the team. The Pelicans ran a faster pace when he was off the court than if any other player on the team was.

But to his credit, he did have some great moments too, and as unlikely as it may seem, one of his best was his very first.

He started against Memphis next to Holiday and ended up with a 20-10-5 stat-line (and he shot 7/12 from the field). In all honesty the game could not have started any better, and Evans was the Pelicans’ best player that night. The initial look at his fit in the system was actually promising.

The root of the issue with Evans, as it always as been, is whether you put the ball in his hands or not.

[table id=87 /]

Compared to other NBA point guards, Evans’ possession numbers are not all that crazy. He is towards the top of the league, but he doesn’t “dominate the ball” that much more or less than other starting NBA point guards, at least in terms of touches. The question is whether he should be allowed to.

Next season Gentry hopes to get guys “used to moving the ball,” pick up the pace even more, and get rid of the isolation tendencies. None of that sounds like Evans. He slows the pace, he doesn’t move the ball, and oh by the way, he was far and away 1st on the team in frequency of isolation plays, with ~18% of his possessions ending in ISO (Ryan Anderson was 2nd at ~9%).

From Gentry’s postseason press conference we confirmed that Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis were going to be at “the core” of everything they do this offseason, and that just might be Evans’ saving grace. Tyreke has a good relationship with both.

“The Stretch” refers to a ~9 game span in March of 2014 when Anthony Davis first truly broke out into a superstar, averaging 31.3 pts, 13.6 rebs, 2.2 asts, and 2.6 blks in 42 minutes a night shooting 57.5% from the field. That span for Davis (as well as the next season’s playoff run) was tied to a developing relationship with Tyreke Evans. Over that same stretch of games Evans averaged 22.1 pts,, 6.1 asts, and 5.1 rebs, shooting 56.8% from the field.

And remember that 20-10-5 against Memphis I mentioned earlier? It was the only game of the season in which Evans and Holiday started next to each other. While they shared the court this year the Pelicans were good: the team posted a Net-Rating of 7.6 with the duo. This isn’t particularly new, last season they had a 4.5 rating, and a 5.1 the season before.

The point is, if the team doesn’t want to put the ball in Evans’ hands, they have options. Give the ball to Jrue (which they’ve already said they are doing) or try to put Evans on the bench. Those options aren’t so bad (although both have been around for 3 years and neither has stuck).

Closing Thoughts

“We have to do what makes sense,” GM Dell Demps has said when asked about making moves. “We can’t get rid of a guy and bring back lesser talent…we’ve got to make sure we are looking at the right things.”

Evans didn’t look good a lot of the time in his first 25 games under Gentry, but he did some promising things and is one of the most talented players on the roster. Dumping him for scraps doesn’t make sense. But dumping him in a series of moves that nets you greater or equal talent? Well, that’s what Demps is going to have to come up with.

If he can’t come up with something that will make this team better (and I don’t mean “assets”), would Evans’ repertoire with Holiday and Davis make holding onto him through the summer a better option for next season than dumping him for an asset or two? Is the Front Office looking to add more rather than replace and retool? This summer would probably be the best chance to get a return for him, as there will be teams that miss out on free agents, but how good an offer will the Pels actually get? Who knows what the hell will happen, but the ball is in Demps’ court now.

2 Comments

  1. 504ever

    May 3, 2016 at 9:30 am

    I don’t believe Tyreke is tradable for an upgrade.  (What team would want him?  Maybe a really weak team desperate for scoring?  If so, what could they offer in return?)  I do believe Tyreke will help the Pelican’s, especially as 2nd team star and also as a 3 point shooter with the 1st team.  Remember both Tyreke and Drew shoot over 50% on assisted 3s. There is upside for Tyreke in Gentry’s system.

  2. Come On Pelican

    May 4, 2016 at 11:47 am

    What The Hell To Do With Tyreke Evans — how about this crazy, radical idea?  How about putting this 6’6″ player in his natural role of shooting guard/wing instead of trying to make him a point guard in Alvin’s fast-paced system?

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