The Pelican Debrief season reviews have been flowing for the past 10 days with the large group of role players that played significant minutes for the Pelican’s in 2013-2014. In case you missed them they have been: Luke Babbitt, Darius Miller, Jeff Withey, Jason Smith, Alexis Ajinca, Greg Stiemsma, Austin Rivers, Anthony Morrow and Brian Roberts and Al-Farouq Aminu. Over the weekend, we started a look at what the projects as the Pelicans’ core going forward with a season review of Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday. Today we continue with a player that had an up and down year in his first season in New Orleans, Tyreke Evans.
Stats: 72 games (22 starts), 28.2 MPG, 14.5 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 5.0 APG, 0.3 BPG, 1.2 SPG
Highlight: Tyreke had a career night on April 14th against the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he put up 41 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 steals. He also went 12-16 from the free throw line and the Pelicans ended up beating the Thunder 101-89.
Good: Staying Healthy. Tyreke played in 72 games this year, the most since his rookie season. The longest stretch of games he missed was three in mid-January, where he battle a sore ankle. While it bothered him throughout the year, ‘Reke played through the pain most of the season.
Bad: Scoring woes. ‘Reke only managed to shoot 43.6% from the field and only averaged 14.5 PPG this season, the lowest of any season in his career. A disturbing trend to watch for next season is the fact Tyreke’s PPG have decreased every year he’s been in the league.
Ugly: Jump shooting. ‘Reke could not get many shots outside the paint to consistently go in. He finished the year with a 22.1 3PT%, and shooting a dreadful 22.935% from outside 8 feet. For the Pelicans to make the next leap, Reke’s jumper has to improve.
Tyreke Evans found a new home in New Orleans, who signed him to a 4 year, $44 Million deal this past summer in a sign and trade from Sacramento. The Pelicans took a big chance with Tyreke, especially since they already had Eric Gordon signed to a big money deal and had just traded for Jrue Holiday at the draft.
Evans was expected to be a 6th-Man producer, like Jamal Crawford on the Clippers or JR Smith on the Knicks, however he really struggled to fit into the role early on in the season as for the first four months of the season, Evans posted dreadful numbers. Before the All-Star Break, Tyreke averaged 12.6 points per game on 41.1% shooting, along with 4.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 24.8 minutes per game. The woes continued throughout the year but February really stood out as the worst of the worst.
In February, Evans averaged just 9.4 points, 4.9 assists, and 4.3 rebounds per contest. His shooting took a huge hit in February, plummeting all the way down to 36.7% from the field, 16.7% from behind the three-point line and a shocking 48.1% from the free throw line in 11 games. Evans was dealing with sore ribs most of February, along with just getting over his ankle injury, however the numbers mostly stemmed from him trying to carry the load with all the other Pelicans’ injuries.
With Ryan Anderson, Jrue Holiday and Jason Smith all out for the year by January, and Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis in and out of the lineup, Evans was expected to carry the load most nights, and it took him a while to get the hang of it. As much as you can criticize his numbers at the beginning of the season, he had great improvement after the All Star break.
After the break he jumped up his minutes to 33.5 per game, and averaging 17.4 points, 6.3 assists, and 5.4 rebounds per game while shooting 46.6% from the field. It was a vast increase from the first half of the season and was one of the bright spots of the Pelicans’ season.
A lot of Evans’ disturbing numbers have deeper explanations. The Pelicans had better offensive and defensive rating numbers when Tyreke wasn’t on the floor, but Evans played with the bench unit for a good portion of the year, even when he got the starting gig. Those numbers speak more to the team depth problems than anything else. Evans also had 103 of his shots blocked this year, which was the most on the roster. However Tyreke also shot 679 shots inside of 8 feet and was also the only guard attacking the basket in most games, leaving him open to have the defense collapse on his drives and have his shots blocked.
New Orleans originally thought Evans could play the SF for them, but early on his lack of size and defensive ability showed that wasn’t going to be effective. This leaves the Pelicans in a tricky scenario. Evans struggled to show much coming off the bench, yet seemed to thrive when he had more time on the floor and more freedom. With everyone coming back healthy next year, he won’t get that much freedom unless Eric Gordon is benched or traded. It would seem far-fetched that New Orleans would try to trade Evans one year after bringing him in, yet with Dell Demps you never really know. What should be expected is New Orleans making a valiant attempt to trade one of the Gordon/Evans duo to free up time for the other. With Gordon’s contract being shorter, it would seem he is the more likely option to be moved.
Evans’ first season was a mixed bag. Since we really didn’t get to see him much with the rest of the core, it is tough to tell what he is capable of on this team. He’s a fast, driving shooting guard who is not afraid to draw contact and get to the line. Though his shooting game is weak, he can improve that in the offseason. His defense this year was about what you’d expect. Evans won’t ever be a superstar player in the league, but he is a solid role player that could make a substantial difference next year for the Pelicans. If he puts up the kind of numbers he did at the end of this season and the rest of the important pieces can stay healthy, the Pelicans are in for a much improved 2014-2015 season. That is a big IF though…