How Tyreke Evans Injury Can Become a Blessing in Disguise

Published: October 27, 2015

Let’s get one thing clear – the rash of injuries that have plagued the Pelicans the last few weeks are a bad thing. There is no way around that. If given the choice, any Pelican fan, coach, player, etc. would choose to have an injury free team as we enter the season. But where some see dismay, others see opportunities, and there are some benefits that can come long term from the injuries; specifically, the one to Tyreke Evans.

Entering the season, the two biggest questions for Gentry were: How would he use Omer Asik, and who was he going to start at point guard? While the injury to Tyreke does nothing to solve the first question, it could end up being the way that he gets to simply and effectively answer the second one without ruffling any feathers. Make no mistake, Jrue Holiday (when healthy) is the superior player. He is undoubtedly the better defender, and in Gentry’s system, he likely is the better offensive weapon as well. But with Jrue on a minutes restriction, Gentry would have been forced to start Tyreke to start the season, and it would have been difficult to remove Tyreke from the starting lineup as long as he didn’t play poorly.

What the Tyreke injury does is allow Jrue to start games, and get back to his normal minutes by the time Evans returns. At that point, Gentry can do what he would have liked to ideally do all along – start Jrue Holiday and allow Tyreke Evans to be a game changer off the bench. It won’t be viewed as a demotion in December, as Holiday will have solidified himself as the starter and Tyreke will just be coming in to help the team in any way the coach sees fit. In a scenario where Evans never gets hurt, Gentry would have either had to ride the wave or demote Tyreke Evans. Maybe Tyreke would take the demotion in stride, but there is a chance it wouldn’t have sat well. If he was playing well, he might have seen it as unnecessary. Playing poorly, and he thinks the staff doesn’t believe in him. These things get tricky, as we are dealing with multi-million dollar athletes with egos here.

Each day, Jrue Holiday is getting closer and closer to a time when his minutes will not be restricted. In the preseason alone, we have seen him go from 10 to 15 to 17 minutes. It is possible that he could be close to 30 by the time Evans returns, and that would give him the ability to both start and finish games. Meanwhile, Tyreke Evans can still get starters minutes, but he would do it as a reserve who can give the Pelicans a boost when starters get a rest, while still being a part of the finishing five.

The other possible benefit might come from Anthony Davis increasing his role as a playmaker while Tyreke Evans is out. With Jrue Holiday limited, and the Pelicans having no true PG on the roster, the offense will run through Davis. We saw Alvin Gentry do this with Blake Griffin two years ago when Chris Paul went down, and it worked fantastically. Come playoff time, Davis is going to need to trust in his playmaking skills, and what better time to hone them then right now? If Blake never develops those skills when CP3 went down, the Clippers probably lose to San Antonio in the first round last year. Same goes for Davis, as being ten percent better in that area could mean the difference between a Game 7 win and a Game 7 loss.

We saw a stretch of games where Davis became a secondary facilitator for the offense in March of last season, when Jrue was out and Tyreke was a little banged up. In a span of nine games, he averaged 4.5 assists per game and finished the season averaging 3.9 in his final sixteen contests. Using Griffin, and even Draymond Green as models, Gentry can put Davis in a position where he makes plays not only for himself, but others. The danger in doing this is that AD’s turnover rate skyrockets, though this did not happen when they asked him to be a playmaker last season. In that same stretch, he averaged just 1.5 turnovers a game despite an insane usage, and that was only bumped up because of a 6 turnover performance in the final game. Prior to that, he was at one turnover per game despite a usage rate of nearly 30%.

Tying this all together, there is no player that took the ball out of Davis’s hands more than Evans last year, and this gives him the chance to enhance another part of his game. Last year, when Evans was on the court, Davis only averaged 1.9 assists per 36 minutes. When Davis was on the court without Evans, that number jumped over 50% – to 3.0 assists per 36.

Look, nobody is foolish enough to claim that it is a good thing that Evans went down, but that doesn’t mean that good things can’t come of it. Gentry could avoid having to bench Tyreke after starting him, and AD could improve his ability to facilitate. If both of those things happen, and Tyreke comes back as a devastating 6th man off the bench who finishes games a la Ginobli, it could be a short-term setback for a long-term gain. Or, it could all go horribly wrong. But there are enough people out there assuming the worst; Occasionally, it is okay to look at the possible silver linings.


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