When the Pelicans announced the Evans signing, the first area of concern for many was the sheer size of his contract: $44 million over four years. While this sum was definitely a tad more generous than my valuation, the bigger question was how he would fit with two other ball-dominant guards in Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon. The answer so far: not so well.
Evans was brought in to play a Manu Ginobili-like role off the bench, but the Pelicans have struggled to integrate him in such a way where he is productive and helping the team.
First, let's just get this out of the way right now -- Tyreke's overall grade should, at worst, have been an incomplete. And he definitely did not deserve inclusion on such a demeaning list. Asides the typical small sample size argument, he had missed a whole bunch of time in a new uniform. A troublesome left ankle sprain hobbled him through most of the preseason and the injury has reared it's ugly head on more than one occasion in the regular season.
Further, had the national media done their due diligence, much like our very own Brian Ball back in July, they would have concluded the Holiday-Gordon-Evans trio had a very reasonable chance of success. Not long after Brian's analysis, this was stated rather succinctly by David Fisher:
Here is the disconnect that evidently no writer on the national scale wants to put together. High usage cannot continue and the players are too inefficient. That usage MUST drop they say, but they fail to mention that the usage dropping (along with each player no longer always drawing the premier perimeter defender from the opponent at all times) will increase that efficiency. After confronted with that, they fall back to the players being unhappy due to lower usage rates and different roles without the ball (and the pressure, and the best defender available) in their hands. But again, they fail to tie the increase in efficiency, the lightened workload, and importantly the increased expected success into their equation for happiness.
Proof is in the Pudding
Since the December 13th matchup against the Grizzlies, Tyreke hasn't had any more issues with the ankle and not surprisingly, has posted the best numbers of his Pelican career. In the last 7 games, he has averaged 18.3 PPG, 7.7 AST, 6.9 REB, 1.3 STL against only 1.9 TOV. He has attempted 5.0 free throws a game, making 85.7% of them. The field goal percentage (41.6%) is still a a bit low but much of that is due to a relentless, and often wild, attack into the paint (51.4 FG% at the rim). His jump shot has actually showed some improvement where he's made 33% from deep and one very important game winner.
For comparison's sake, during the same time frame, Lance Stephenson is averaging 15.9 PPG, 6.0 AST, 7.3 REB, .5 STL and 2.3 TOV. He has attempted 2.5 free throws a game and converted at a 85.0% clip. His only noticeable statistical advantage is his field goal percentage (51.5%), but to his credit, he is attempting 4 less shots a game (isn't forcing the issue).
Tyreke Evans has been playing out of position, spending nearly all of his time at shooting forward. Yet, he has posted an 18.8 PER overall and has a respectable +1.5 PER net margin at shooting forward. On the other hand, Stephenson has posted a 15.0 PER overall and has been slaughtered to a tune of -5.3 net margin at SF. No, it's not Stephenson's fault he's completely ineffective at another position, rather we're doing the comparison to show another oft overlooked notch in Evans' belt: his versatility.
For over a month now, we have all read how Stephenson is a strong candidate for the most improved award. (Which btw, isn't happening neither, not with the year Anthony Davis is having...but we'll save that for another time.) Some pundits are even starting to associate his name with a possible All-Star selection. Good for him, and again, we're not here to take anything away from the rising Indiana Pacer.
However, if Stephenson is garnering so much acclaim, what will the national media say about Evans once they can't continue to overlook his recent stretch of effectiveness? At the very least, they should all start their articles addressing the future 6th man of the year, "I'm sorry."