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Why Tyreke Evans Should Learn how to Shoot

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Michael McNamara at Bourbon Street Shots wrote a bit of a #SlatePitch article contending that Tyreke shouldn't really be focusing on getting better at shooting in the offseason. He's concerned that Evans will fall in love with his jumper at the expense of getting to the rim, which is what Tyreke does best. Specifically, he's worried that Tyreke will go the way of Rajon Rondo - he'll develop a jumper, stop going to the rim as much, and see a significant decline in efficiency. McNamara's fears are probably overblown - Tyreke needs to develop a jump shot to make the Pelican offense more dynamic. Plus, Rondo's subpar season wasn't a result of him falling in love with his jump shot - it was a result of him being injured and still being a very poor shooter.

The classic case for Tyreke improving his jump shot is simple. First, it's clearly the weakest point in his game - he shot 22% from beyond the arc last season and shot about 25% from midrange. It's also one of the easiest to work on in the off season. Becoming a better passer is tough - learning how to identify open cutters at NBA speeds isn't something that's easy to do alone in a gym. Making jump shots is, however, and it's something that Evans has been much better at in the past. Evans shot almost 34% from three in his last season in Sacramento and converted about 33% of his mid-range shots. If he could improve his shooting percentage from those areas, it would be a huge boon to his offensive efficiency.

In addition, becoming a better shooter would improve the Pelican offense. The biggest problem with playing Tyreke with Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday is that Evans needs the ball in his hands to be a valuable contributor on offense. If he could make 35% or more of his threes, Evans would keep defenders closer to him around the three point arc, opening up space for Holiday and Gordon to penetrate. If he were a threat to catch and shoot, defenders would have to mark him closer. He could be used on weakside picks to cause distortions in the defense or could be a decoy in plays, making him valuable without the ball in his hands.

Rajon Rondo's disappointing season has less to do with him falling in love with his jump shot and more to do with a confluence of aging and injury. Rondo took over 25% of his field goal attempts from downtown as opposed to 11% last season, but that doesn't mean he was relying more on his jumper. In fact, it was more about him redistributing his jump shots to a more efficient part of the court. Rondo took 46% of his field goal attempts from beyond 10 feet last season, which was exactly the same mark as the season before - he just took a lot more jump shots beyond the arc and a lot fewer from midrange.

The reason Rondo had a bad year is that he just couldn't make a lot of his shots. His field goal percentage dropped precipitously within the three point arc, from 51% to 44%. That's probably a function of injury, since ACL surgery is pretty tough to come back from. But it's also a natural result of aging - players that are very good at getting to the rim and finishing become less so as they get older. That's why guards like Tony Parker and Chris Paul, who started off as middling to poor jump shooters who could get to the rim with ease, had to develop a jump shot as they aged and became less effective at getting to the rim.

McNamara suggests that Evans should develop a post game instead of improving his jump shot, leveraging his size advantage over guards. The idea has a certain logic to it - Monty has already said that he's looking to put Evans at the 1 or 2 instead of the 3 next year, so he'll likely be defended by a smaller man. In addition, there will likely be a lot of shooters around him - he could hit Ryno or Jrue or Gordon or even Davis for an open shot.

However, a post game for a guard is a bit of a luxury - Evans would likely only post up one or two times a game, tops. It's not a very common set, and it doesn't work well within the Pelicans' existing offense. Improving his jump shot, however, would be valuable on almost every possession. It would force his defender to go over screens instead of sagging underneath, making his pick-and-roll offense more effective. He would improve his effective field goal percentage. He would force his defenders to stay tight and open up the driving lanes for teammates. A viable jump shot would be far more valuable than a gimmick that Monty could deploy a few times per game.

I think there's serious hope that Evans can shoot better next year. In his last season in Sacramento, Evans had a 37.5% eFG% on his jump shots - not great by any means, but viable. He posted that line while using 22% of his team's possessions. Last year, Evans saw his eFG% on jump shots fall to 27.8%, but his usage rate skyrocketed to 27%. That's a key distinction - in his first role as a super-sub, he had few players that could shoot on the court with him, and was often saddled by Stiemsma and Aminu. He was forced into tough shots by defenses that could easily key on him. If Monty starts Evans and surrounds him with offensive talent, his usage rate can fall and his effective field goal percentage can climb. Any material improvement in his jump shot would just be gravy.