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The Pelicans found themselves in a tough spot on January 12th. Jrue Holiday, the team's usual starting point guard, went down with ankle inflammation (since upgraded to a stress reaction) at halftime of the game against the Boston Celtics. Once again without a foundational rotation piece someone had to step up and carry a heavier load.
Enter Tyreke Evans.
As the season began Evans was an undersized starting small forward along side Holiday and Eric Gordon. When Gordon suffered a shoulder subluxation and torn labrum it was Evans who moved to shooting guard making room for Luke Babbitt in the starting lineup. Gordon returned and it was again on Evans to volunteer to come off the bench as a super sub; the position he was initially expected to fill.
Evans did not disappoint during his turn at the wheel of the Pelicans offense. In 16 games Tyreke averaged 16.6 points, 7.9 assists, and 5.2 rebounds per game while shooting 45.2% from the field and 35.3% behind the arc. His assist-to-turnover ratio was a more than respectable 2.54. New Orleans compiled a 9-7 record while missing Jrue Holiday (16 games) and Anthony Davis (6 games).
Tyreke's court vision combined with a willingness to take (unnecessary?) risks culminated in a dominant seven game stretch from the end of January to the beginning of February. From January 25th to February 6th Evans racked up 73 assists against just 18 turnovers as the Pelicans defeated the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Vision and Anticipation
A visionary sees things before they occur, anticipates these opportunities, and seizes them. Tyreke Evans is that man for the New Orleans Pelicans. It helps to have a deadly partner in the pick and roll. Evans releases this pass when Davis is at the foul line. Wait any longer and Kevin Durant arrives in time to thwart the alley oop.
But Evans has done more than just set up Anthony Davis for alley oops. Of his 121 assists in the last 16 games 49 have been for 3-pointers. The most frequent beneficiaries are Eric Gordon (24) and Ryan Anderson (13). This season Gordon is shooting 58.2% on 3-point attempts after a pass from Tyreke Evans.
Many of these assists have been relatively garden variety. The constant threat of Evans driving the ball to the basket causes defenders to cheat a step too far, creating the necessary space for a catch and shoot three. Other occasions, especially recently, have been far more dramatic.
There are no look passes. Then there are passes like that with four minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Against the Clippers. With Anthony Davis in street clothes.
Tyreke Evans, the visionary for the Pelicans. Let's hope he can keep it up in the push for the playoffs. Where ever Monty Williams might need him next.