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Tyreke Evans: A Bargain

The market for young wings is more clearly established this summer. Tyreke's contract looks awful cheap.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Free agency is an interesting time in the NBA. While most focus on the value of the player currently being signed, that value has ripple effects on the perceived value of other players currently under contract. Specifically if those contracts are now a bargain or potentially an overpayment. The market for almost retired power forwards who have been the face of their franchise for over a decade, for instance, is right around $10 Million a season. The Pelicans unfortunately, are not in the position to have that luxury. Yet.

However, one position where the Pelicans spent big (a "monster contract", if I may) was on the wing last summer. The cost to acquire Tyreke Evans according to Bill Simmons was far too high. In fact, Evans and his contract clocked in at Number 16 on the Sports Guy's Worst Contracts in the NBA article. If you have forgotten, Tyreke Evans signed a 4 year, $44 Million contract last summer. Importantly, that contract decreases in cost each year according to all-around salary cap wizard Mark Deeks at Sham Sports.

Note: All salary cap numbers come from Sham Sports throughout this article.

Spending Bonanza

Three free agent wings hit the market this summer similar to Tyreke Evans last summer. Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons, like Evans, were both restricted free agents. Lance Stephenson is unrestricted. All four of these players (including Evans) will be 24 to 26 years old this coming season. Chandler Parsons is actually the oldest of the group. Thus far both Hayward and Parsons have come to terms on their contracts, although where they play has yet to be determined.

Those sound like enormous numbers, but let's put them in perspective. Specifically to compare what the Pelicans will be paying Tyreke Evans over the next three years before diving into a more substantial analysis.

Pos Age 2014-2015 2015-2016 2016-2017 2017-2018
Tyreke Evans SG/SF 25 $11,265,416 $10,734,586 $10,203,755
Chandler Parsons SF 26 $14,700,000 $15,361,500 $16,023,000
Gordon Hayward SG/SF 24 $14,746,000 $15,409,570 $16,073,140 $16,736,710

Someone should let Bill Simmons and Zach Lowe (along with the rest of the national media covering the NBA) know exactly how much of a steal Tyreke Evans is going to be compared to his contemporaries. In 2016-2017 the Mid-Level Exception is projected to be $5.628M according to Larry Coon at the NBA CBA FAQ. Parsons and Haywood will each make over $5.8M more than Tyreke Evans that season. Would you rather have Tyreke Evans and the equivalent to the MLE, or just Parsons or Hayward?

Offense First

Putting the ball in the basket is how wings get paid. Disagree with that? Take a look at how much Tony Allen gets paid on Sham Sports, $4.8M this coming season. Allen is widely regarded as one of the top defenders on the perimeter, and will be paid less than a third of what Parsons or Hayward will next season. Comparing the value of a contract then should first focus on offense. In order to have the most balanced assessment possible everything beyond shooting percentages will be in terms of per 100 possessions. Statistics have been pulled from each player's Basketball Reference page, linked below.

FG% 3PT% FGA/100 FTA/100 PP/100 AP/100 RP/100 TO/100 A/TO - Ratio USG% PER
Tyreke Evans 43.6% 22.1% 23.0 8.0 26.8 9.3 8.8 4.5 2.074 27.1% 18.4
Chandler Parsons 47.2% 37.0% 17.7 4.0 22.0 5.3 7.3 2.6 2.069 19.3% 15.9
Gordon Hayward 41.3% 30.4% 19.4 7.1 23.4 7.5 7.3 4.0 1.887 23.1% 16.2

All things considered, this looks like a clear victory for Tyreke Evans. There is, of course, fit to consider. Tyreke struggles with his outside shot, and this is something which must be accounted for with rotations. However, there is also the higher level of efficiency despite shouldering a significantly heavier load to weigh.

Our own Brian Ball dug deep into the relationship between usage and efficiency. As usage increases, efficiency typically decreases. Despite maintaining the highest usage volume of the group Evans managed to also post the highest PER. Looking at the shot charts on Basketball Reference really tell the story.

At Rim Assisted 3-10 Feet Assisted 10-16 Feet Assisted 16-3pt Assisted 3pt Assisted
Tyreke Evans 54.4% 30.4% 35.4% 29.9% 27.3% 0.0% 24.7% 27.8% 22.1% 71.4%
Chandler Parsons 64.1% 55.5% 40.1% 42.0% 41.5% 44.4% 35.7% 52.0% 37.0% 93.7%
Gordon Hayward 62.5% 43.7% 28.1% 36.8% 43.8% 19.0% 41.3% 44.4% 30.4% 89.4%

There is value in the ability to create one's own shot and the ability to create shots for others. In the previous chart it clearly showed that Tyreke Evans creates more shots for others by his higher assist rate and superior assist-to-turnover ratio. This chart demonstrates that Evans not only creates shots for others, but frequently does so for himself as well.

A mockery can (and has) been made of Tyreke's shot chart throughout the previous season. Not nearly enough focus has been lent to the difficulty of simply getting to the basket, let alone to do so without the assistance of others creating those opportunities. Comparing the field goal percentages of these three players within the restricted area alone is an incomplete analysis. Do so while also considering that Tyreke created that shot himself; while others likely did not. Isolation comprised between 6.5% (Parsons) and 8% (Hayward) of the offense for two players according to Synergy Sports. Fully 23% of Tyreke's possessions were isolation from the same source.

Defensive Ambiguity

Measuring individual defense is very difficult. All five players on the court at a time contribute to the defensive rating found at Basketball Reference. ESPN introduced a new statistic, Real Plus Minus, to measure individual contributions this past April. Like QBR, do not expect it to be referenced much beyond ESPN's monolith. Synergy Sports is oftentimes the source NBA writers lean on most heavily to measure individual defensive ability.

Below I have compared all three players using both Synergy Sports and From Synergy Sports I pulled the overall points allowed per possession, along with isolation, pick and roll ball handler, spot up, and off screen statistics. Steals per 100 possessions come from Basketball Reference. From 82 Games I included PER allowed. Shooting Guard for Evans and Hayward, Small Forward for Parsons.

Defense Isolation P&R Spot Up Off Screen ST/100 PER Allowed
Tyreke Evans 0.89 0.69 0.72 1.00 1.13 2.2 13.0
Chandler Parsons 0.88 0.93 0.74 0.84 0.99 1.6 14.6
Gordon Hayward 0.89 0.95 0.87 1.00 0.73 2.1 14.6

Overall the players are nearly equal, just .01 separating Parsons according to Synergy Sports. Each excels in very different areas. While Evans is an elite (no, seriously, elite) isolation and pick and roll defender he struggles off the ball, especially off screens. Parsons uses his 6'10" frame to close out on spot up shooters. Hayward excels fighting through or around screens off the ball while struggling mightily on the ball.

Loose Ends

The Pelicans were pounded for tying up so much of their salary cap last summer. Such moves made acquiring another difference maker difficult if not impossible. Instead with a rapidly increasing salary cap expect that the contracts for Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday (currently 57th and 52nd highest paid in the league) will look like better and better deals going forward. The flexibility created by acquiring players before the first big jump in the salary cap may take another summer or two to be easily measured, but it will matter.

None of this is to say that Hayward or Parsons are bad contracts. Simply that their contracts can be used to put into perspective the value of Tyreke's contract. Fans cannot hang their hats on the youth or expected development of Hayward (born March 1990) without simultaneously recognizing the potential for the same from Tyreke Evans (born September 1989). All that before the fact that Tyreke is owed nearly $14 Million less over the next three years is brought into the equation.

It is also important to note that both Parsons and Hayward have trade kickers and player options for the final year in their contracts. Both items make those contracts more difficult to move in the future, while Tyreke's deal continues to decrease in cost and becomes more easily traded. These areas of increased value are inconsequential unless the marriage between player and franchise turns sour.

As it stands just comparing these contracts and the players attached to them on an apples to apples basis makes it clear which is the best value. Time to update the "Worst Contracts in the NBA" you think, Bill?