The definition of soul is the essence or embodiment of a specified quality. During the 2014-2015 season, Tyreke Evans was the heart and soul of the New Orleans Pelicans. In many ways he was a perfect analogy for the team: young, talented, maddeningly inconsistent, incredibility exciting, surprisingly boring, and above all, resilient. All of those terms would perfectly describe both the New Orleans Pelicans and Evans. In many ways it was Tyreke, not Anthony Davis, that decided the ebb and flow of the team. On nights when Reke was on the team's chances of winning went way up, when he was off it was a coin flip at best.
In the games in which the Pelicans won, Evans posted a positive Net Rating off 13.6 (Off Rtg 114.2 - Def Rtg 100.5). In the losses, he was astoundingly bad, a -11.3 Net Rtg (Off Rtg 99.6 - Def Rtg 110.9). In case you're not doing the math, that's a differential of 24.9. Only Ryan Anderson (29.1) had a greater differential between his performances in wins vs losses.
So, in many ways the Pels went as Tyreke Evans went. This makes sense since Evans was the only real off the dribble perpetrator on the roster once Jrue Holiday went down. In games where Evans could get into the paint and Reke havoc (yep), opponents were forced to react, leaving the likes of Quincy Pondexter and Eric Gordon open for 3's. On nights when Evans could not penetrate opposing defenses effectively, mostly when their was a large defensive paint presence, the team was left taking a barrage of long two point jumpers. This dynamic was the main catalyst behind the Pelicans inconsistent offensive play.
If there has been one recurring issue with the core members of the Pels, it has been availability (or lack thereof). This season the Pelicans core (Davis, Anderson, Gordon, Holiday and Evans) missed a whopping 100 games. Evans contributed only three games to that total in route to playing in 79 games this season (the next closest was Anthony Davis with 68). Tyreke played through injury, illness and fatigue, despite all the criticism he regularly receives from fans and media. The Pelicans almost certainly would not have made the playoffs without him.
Evans had one of his best all around seasons posting career highs in assists, rebounds, and blocked shots. By no means was he perfect though. Tyreke shot a career low 69.4% from the free throw line and despite the off-season talk of an improved jumper, he was once again a poor 3 point shooter (although he did improve from last season).
He could often be found at the top key beating the air out of the ball, only to settle for a fade away jumper late in the shot clock. While Tyreke does have some culpability for that, it didn't help that the team occasionally did not have enough movement on offense and got into plays far too late in the shot clock. That said, it is the point guards responsibility to get the best shot available -- a fade away 19 foot jumper is not even close that, unless Anthony Davis is taking that shot, and maybe not even then.
Speaking of point guards, Evans was once again forced to play outside of his intended role. When he was brought in by Dell Demps, it was with the intention for him to be a "super sub" off the bench in the mold of a Manu Ginolbili. In his first season with the Pels, Reke was instead forced into filling the teams Grand Canyon sized hole at small forward. This year, Jrue Holiday's injury forced him into the starting point guard role. Evans stepped in admirably but as the season wore on it became obvious that he is probably better suited to be a scoring threat on the second unit and in crunch time. Imagine when he is able to come into the game fresh off the bench and terrorize Western Conference second units with his physically imposing style of play. That was his intended role and two years into his time in NOLA we have yet to see Evans play in his ideal situation.
If I had to give Tyreke Evans an overall grade for the 2014-2015 season it would be a B-. On the positive side he seemed like the only guard willing to push the pace (at times) and his powerful jaunts to the rim were as impressive as they have always been. On the negative side his inconsistency, free throw struggles and questionable shot selection were frustrating for coaches and fans alike.
All that said I believe the future is bright for Tyreke Evans. With improved team health, he will be moved into his rightful "super sub" role. This, of course, is subject to change depending on whomever Dell Demps hires as the teams next head coach. It seems Demps wants the team to play faster and Evans should fit in with that model. However, one never knows how a new coach might want to remake the roster and Evans is one of the franchises most movable pieces in terms of trade value.
Overall, it was a solid season for Evans. Let's hope he's back in 2016.