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Trouble at the Rim: A Tyreke Evans Driving Odyssey

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Tyreke has put up an impressive stat line thus far, but he is far from reaching his potential.

Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Pelicans fans have marveled at the play of Anthony Davis, the mutant. We have all been wowed by Omer Asik’s defensive IQ and ability to alter almost any shot at the rim without fouling. Jrue Holiday has even seemed to return to his borderline all-star form by cutting his career TO% in half and currently posting the second highest assist-to-turnover ratio amongst starters behind only Chris Paul.

Assist to Turnover Ratio

What hasn’t been discussed is Tyreke Evans’ play. On the season, Tyreke is averaging 16.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 7.0 assists. Not too shabby. But those numbers could be much bigger.

Tyreke’s improvement from behind the arc has been massive. A career 27.7% shooter from three, Evans is currently shooting a scorching 46.7%. In fact, there are only 12 players in the NBA that have at least 30 three point attempts and are shooting at least 46%.

As amazing as his improvement from three, Tyreke has been equally disappointing finishing around the rim. Utilizing the NBA Stats website, the following are Tyreke’s numbers for Driving Layups and Layup Shots over the past five years.:

Driving Layup Layup Shot
2010-11 70.1% 42.3%
2011-12 70.9% 49.7%
2012-13 80.8% 44.9%
2013-14 76.3% 35.6%
2014-15 53.3% 30.4%

One of these things is not like the others...

Tyreke Evans is having a career worst year with Driving Layups and Layup Shots. This is especially important because almost half of his shot attempts (47%) are of this variety. What is particularly alarming is Tyreke’s dropoff on driving shots this season from his previous seasons. Tyreke is shooting 23% worse on these type of shots through the first 10 games of the 2014-15 season as compared to his 2013-14 campaign with the Pelicans.

Evidence

Exhibit A

Exhibit B (Even though he got a Kobe assist)

These are layups that high school players are expected to make, but it happens. So has Tyreke been taking more contested layups since joining the Pelicans, in particular this season? If so, why?

According to the shot logs on the NBA Stats site, approximately 61% of Tyreke’s shot attempts per game are taken with a defender either tightly (within four feet) or very tightly (within two feet) guarding him. Evans is successful on only 31% of those shots. Averaging 15 shots per game, that means 10 are taken with a defender within four feet. During the 2013-14 season, an astounding 75% of Tyreke’s shot attempts occurred with a defender playing tight or very tight defense. Compare this to Eric Gordon in which 43.8% of his shots are with tight or very tight defense.

Tyreke’s game is penetrating and bullying the defender by using his strength to create separation in order to get a high percentage shot. However, the biggest reason for his early season struggles are the bad layups he attempts.

Exhibit C

This is not a high percentage shot. Some sort of driving one handed hook shot over the much taller LaMarcus Aldridge. These, however, are the type of shots we see multiple times per game.

In some strange way, AD could be to blame for Tyreke’s struggles at the rim. Evans has become spoiled by AD and his presence on the court that he feels there is a really good chance that if he drives to the hoop one of three things will most likely happen:

-A made layup

-A trip to the free throw line

-AD will rebound the miss for a putback

He may be right. One of these three things has a very good chance of occurring. However, the Pelicans cannot afford to take this approach against playoff caliber teams. Evans took multiple shots of this ilk during the Portland game and AD was not able to secure a rebound or tip out because Aldridge or Lopez successfully boxed him out.

Repercussions

If Tyreke cannot overcome his early season struggles at the rim, then the repercussions could be dire. Has Tyreke improved his jump shot? Yes. His three point success was noted earlier. Evans' Catch and Shoot percentages are up to 52.4% this season from 31.3% last season. Do I think his success rate on these types of shots is sustainable? No. Much like I do not think that LeBron James will continue to shoot 39.1% on similar shots. Think about that, Tyreke Evans’ catch and shoot success rate is 13.3% higher than LeBron James!

If Tyreke does not start making a higher percentage of his drives, he may fall in love with his new found jump shot. If his shooting numbers start reverting back to career norms, then we could see more possessions with bad shots. Settling for jumpers when the drive is there leading to a worse result for the team in the win-loss column.

So, What’s the Answer?

I believe that Tyreke has come to rely on Anthony Davis too much to clean up his misses at the rim. Evans has too often driven into the paint and attempted wild layups that do not have a high percentage of going in the basket, just because Anthony Davis is lurking somewhere. This has to have an effect on Tyreke when attempting layups while AD is not in the game. I feel it has become a bad habit that is tough to break. Evans cannot lose his aggressiveness because his ability to get to the rim and his strength advantage are what makes him so valuable.

Tyreke needs to try and limit the difficult layup attempts that have become more prevalent as the myth of AD has grown. Doing so will improve his field-goal percentage at the rim, which will increase his confidence. The team can use the extra possessions to try and obtain quality shots and will be more efficient as a whole. Maybe it is as simple as a little more concentration and luck. Some of these balls that are rolling out will eventually roll in the basket.

Tyreke is a very unique player and a huge key to the Pelicans success this season. He is the one person that may be glad Gordon got off to such a slow start because nobody has noticed his slow start around the rim. Hopefully he can find that touch he once had in Denver tonight.