My House of Cards’ Inspired Case for Tyreke Evans

Published: March 6, 2015

Spoiler Alert House of Cards fans*


“Imagination is its own form of courage,” Frank Underwood states coolly to us before turning back toward author Thomas Yates. They are in discussion of the content of his soon-to-be written novel on Frank’s presidency. Underwood is talking about his self-proclaimed bold and revolutionary new jobs program that he continually pushes for throughout his rocky term in office. To Frank, this jobs program is his mark, his proof that he can be a productive leader. He is being killed on all sides, from foreign policy all the way to his credibility. It gets to a point where he has to reaffirm his resolve and ability to his until recently unshakable wife Claire. Every day there seems to be a new wave coming at him, but he continues to try to fight through them, trying to get a foothold, to get something, anything, down to make his impact. So in a sense, Underwood was right, having the imagination to see a future through the storm requires its own form of courage. But this quote doesn’t seem very Underwood-esque. Frank is all about the execution, making the vision happen, production and progress. What’s the next step, how can we keep moving forward with this.

I don’t think this is some new side of Frank that hasn’t been touched on. As a murderous and fearsome politician he is constantly worried about public perception. But to build for the future, to win a national election, he must build a bigger portfolio than he currently has, and he must do it in a very short amount of time. He must turn the argument that he is a strong-arm politician who bypasses precedent and tiptoes around the law to achieve his will into the story of a man with a vision, one who takes action, who will do what it takes to make it happen, and more importantly, that it is a vision that works.

I find myself making a similar argument lately (though not about myself). Tyreke Evans of the Pelicans seems, to me, to be in a similar situation as Underwood. Thrown into a mix with Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon that was initially deemed “redundant,” Evans continues to try to show his usefulness amid crashing waves, while those of us on the sidelines continue to flip-flop on whether he can “work” on a contender.  Is he the guy that bypasses conventional wisdom for the sake of attacking the rim or is he the guy with vision, and is it working?

Side stepping from role to role like Underwood side steps legal precedent on a daily basis, Evans has proved his usefulness simply by producing regardless of how or where he is used, Majority Whip or off the Bench. Evans has played 60 of the Pels’ 61 games this season.  He has started 57.  In those 57 games, he has been used in 11 different starting lineups: 15 in a 3 guard lineup, 24 as the PG with Holiday out, and 18 as a 2-guard next to Holiday with Gordon out. Austin Rivers and John Salmons have made way for Quincy Pondexter and Norris Cole, and Dante Cunningham has made his mark in the rotation as well, yet the Pelicans #1 most used lineup this season has Luke Babbitt at the 3 next to Evans and Holiday. Among the constantly shifting and changing waters, Evans has found a way to do more than coast along. I think coach Monty Williams says it best, “Tyreke has done a good job for a guy who’s not a point guard playing point guard. He’s really filled in big-time for us and is playing an all-around game.” In fact, Evans’ impact on the team’s offense (+8.4 Offensive Rating when he is on the court) is the largest on the team by a good margin.

Just as the stakes get higher around election time for Frank, the same can be said for Tyreke in this final playoff push, and Tyreke isn’t folding. “I’m playing the point for the first time since my rookie year and I am trying to hold it down for us to get a lot of wins,” and lately he’s been succeeding in that.

Now Tyreke, like Frank, is certainly no saint. He had one season in Sacramento shooting under 45% from the field, in two seasons in NOLA he is at 43.5%.  At times I find myself questioning his decision-making, especially in clutch situations; his 11.4 Turnover Ratio ranks him in the bottom half of the league among guards and he seems to have short stints of tunnel vision, for instance the Utah game, February 9th:

Screen shot 2015-02-21 at 5.30.27 PM Screen shot 2015-02-21 at 5.29.09 PM Screen shot 2015-02-21 at 5.29.10 PM Screen shot 2015-02-21 at 5.29.28 PM

Down 1 with a minute and a half left, Evans grabs a rebound and brings it up court.  He has it set in his mind that he is taking it to the hoop before 5 seconds have even ticked off the shot clock, and he ends up driving into 4 Jazz players, missing the shot, and fumbling the rebound out of bounds.

And it is pretty telling that Monty Williams, in a late game situation, would rather use a timeout to draw up a play with a 10 second shot clock than let Evans’ run Isolation, even in a favorable matchup against Steven Adams:

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Defensively he can be a liability at times; he has trouble keeping up with smaller, quicker guards and he is late in rotation often. The team is actually better defensively with him on the bench,


everything else has improved.  In New Orleans his usage% has jumped up to a career high with his ever-changing role, and his rebounding and especially his assist numbers have both jumped up to career highs:

  • 24.5 USG%, 7.8 TRB% and 23.3 AST% in Sacramento
  • 26.6 USG%, 9.2 TRB% and 31.0 AST% in New Orleans

He does have a lot of redeeming qualities. One that Frank Underwood would drive into the ground would be that he produces.

His drives produce 13.1 team points per game, 2nd in the NBA to James Harden.  At 12.2 drives a game that makes 1.073 points per drive, not the best in league but comparable to players like Brandon Knight (1.041) who many considered fringe All-star in the East and Jeff Teague (1.087), an All-star in the East.  He’s actually not far from players like Dragic (1.189) and Ginobili (1.152). These aren’t league high numbers but at the very least respectable, and the best part, he is not playing his best yet, just last season we was at 1.159 points per drive.

Drives make up over 50% of Tyreke’s offensive game, and as Michael McNamara pointed out, Tyreke is in the bottom 25% of guards in FTr, so how he finishes around the rim is always going to be one of the biggest factors in determining his effectiveness.  We can all agree that a shot at the rim is typically a good and valuable shot, as Underwood would say, “Power is a lot like real estate. It’s all about location, location, location. The closer you are to the source, the higher your property value.”  Well Evans is struggling finishing around the rim in New Orleans.  52.8% last year and 51.3% so far this year in the restricted area vs 60.1% in 2012-13 and 58.7% in 2009-10 (his two most efficient seasons as a pro).  Part of the problem is he is taking a much higher % of his shots there (56.5% and 55.8% in two seasons New Orleans vs 43.4% over 4 years in Sacramento).  He can be a bit predictable at times, and if he doesn’t get to the rim, the chances of him scoring drop significantly: his career FG% in the paint (non-restricted area) is 28.5%.

As Kobe Bryant was once quoted,

“To be unstoppable, you have to first be predictable, because if you are unpredictable you don’t know what the heck you’re going to do, so how can you dictate to the defense what you are going to do?”

Well Evans has shown he can be unstoppable at getting to the rim, but you can’t always get to the rim, so how can you have a consistent game, right?  Well when you are as good at getting to the rim as some of the elite guys out there, you can always find ways to get there, a lot of it is just about when to try.  Evans does have trouble playing within the flow of the offense at times, and he’s admitted so, but he knows it is getting better as well: “It was tough the first year, but I have a better rhythm with the players and the offense this year, so it’s better…I just have to pace myself whether I am starting, or coming off the bench. And let the game come to me.”

But here is why I am optimistic for the rest of this season and the future:

Below is Evans’ Average FG% tracked throughout his 6 NBA seasons, and on the right are the added trend lines:

EvansFG EvansTrends

His two most efficient seasons were very different: 2009-10 he was the primary ball handler and first option on offense, and in 2012-13 he was a secondary ball handler and a 2nd/3rd option, so he has shown he can be very efficient in either role.

And here is his career FG% and TS% pre and post All-star break:

[table id=66 /]

..and here is his FG% in the restricted area this year:

[table id=67 /]

As you can see his efficiency in February has dipped back down, and I don’t think it is a coincidence that it dips just as his role changes and both Davis and Anderson go down with injuries.  But the Pelicans have still won games, in fact they had their longest winning streak of the season without Holiday, Anderson, or Davis.  Just like Frank who….spoiler….has another murder that can be tied to him this season, manages to stay afloat despite people (I won’t say who) abandoning him left and right.  And don’t forget Doug is getting back in mix soon.  Stamper, the man with the secrets, who does everything, including getting dirty.  The Special Man.

Overlooked in the national spotlight is the fact that the Pels have a chance to draw even with OKC for the 8th seed tonight at home against Boston. Evans deserves a lot of credit for what he’s done all season to keep the team’s playoff hopes afloat despite the key losses.

Well I only have one episode to go…it has been pretty entertaining so far, and it has kept me hanging on this long.  I can’t wait to see what happens, but I know in my heart it’ll probably be a big cliff hanger for next season anyway…still gotta watch it tho!

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