Tyreke Evans is the numero uno friendenemy on the Pelicans roster. Sometimes, he looks like the second coming of Magic Johnson. Other games, he looks like just another dude. For that reason, most fans have developed a deep seated love/hate relationship with Tyreke.
On a fan conference call at the beginning of July, Alvin Gentry made some interesting comments about Evans and his future with the Pelicans. Gentry, to the surprise of many, stated that Evans would benefit the most from Gentry's high paced offense. Gentry reasoned that:
Getting in the open court, finding guys for easy baskets, I think all of those things are going to be something to raise his game to another level . . . He will really enjoy that at point guard. I think he will have the opportunity to attack the basket and create things for other guys.
Tyreke also appears to have bought into Gentry's plan. According to his Instagram, he has started a 30 day workout program. That post was from about 4 weeks ago, and from the looks of it, the plan went well. Tyreke has slimmed down so shedding a few extra pounds should help increase his stamina and endurance.
Numbers Never Lie Jimmy
The advance stats support Gentry; Tyreke's best offensive season came the year before he signed with New Orleans. In the 2012-2013 season, he had an offensive rating of 110 and set career highs in FG% (48%) and three-point shooting (34%). What is important to note from this? During the 2012-13 NBA season, according to John Hollinger's "Pace Factor" stat, Sacramento ranked 7th in pace.
John Hollinger's "Pace Factor" stat is simply based on the average number of possessions a team has during a game. Sacramento had a pace factor of 96.3 in the 2012-13 NBA season. The Sacramento's 2012-13 pace factor compares favorably to the historical pace set by Alvin Gentry while he was the head coach of the Phoenix Suns, which ranged from 95-97 possessions a game.
Since Tyreke Evans joined the Pelicans, under Monty Williams the team ranked 22nd and 27th out of 30 teams in pace. Could a return to a higher uptempto offensive system, combined with maturity, help boost Tyreke's game?
Correlation is not the same as causation. However, after watching the Pelicans summer league play, I see what Gentry sees, and I expect Tyreke Evans to have a breakout season. The reason? Chaos.
This past week, Pelicans fans got their first glimpse of Gentry's new offense at the 2015 Las Vegas NBA Summer League. The Pelicans summer squad played at a pace so fast you would have suspected that Jay Garrick was the coach of the team, not Darren Erman or Robert Pack.
For me, the main take away from the Pelicans break-neck pace was how it helped hide certain negative aspects of each player's game, such as their inability to shoot the basketball. It is no secret that Tyreke Evans suffers from poor-jump-shot-itis too. It is also no secret that Tyreke has an elite ability to get into the paint.
Typically, when NBA teams encounter these types of players, they pack the paint and go under every screen. This method dares a poor jump-shooter into taking a low percentage shot. The poster child for this occurred last year when the Golden State Warriors put Andrew Bogut on Tony Allen during the playoffs. Memphis, also a slow paced team, saw their offense stall and they ended up losing the series.
When the Pelicans Summer League offense was really humming, they didn't run into as many scheme problems. It is harder to pack the paint and run under a screen when your defense hasn't had time to set. Any hesitation in the ensuing chaos and the player, especially Tyreke Evans, may blow by you and score. Hence, playing with pace and thereby manufacturing chaos, at least theoretically, should help neutralize some of the defensive schemes that teams have in the past employed to stop Tyreke.
Watching Tyreke Evans' highlight video below, it is evident he is a player who thrives in chaos.
Tyreke Evans With the Pot Boi!?!
Another benefit of Alvin Gentry's uptempo offensive style is the devaluation of each individual shot attempt. It is basic econ 101 that the more you have of anything, the less inherent value it has. (Unless you are Homer Simpson with donuts. In which case infinite donuts have infinite value.) Because each individual shot has less value, there should be less pressure on all shooters to make each individual shot. This theory has never been more clear than with the Curry brothers, who often will miss 3-4 shots in a row but keep on shooting.
Last season, Tyreke Evans was second on the team in shot attempts per a game with 1,165. The Pelicans took 6,795 shots last year, which means Tyreke accounted for roughly 17% of all the team's shots. If the Pelicans up their pace by just 2.5 shot attempts per a game, the Pelicans would shoot exactly 7,000 shots next year (Note - The Golden State Warriors took 7,137 shots last season). If the proportions stayed the same, that would give Tyreke an extra 25 shots during the course of a season.
That doesn't sound like a lot, but that is 25 more times Tyreke can pull up from three than last season; thereby, 25 more times where Tyreke can worry less about making the shot and more about taking the shot. One beautiful thing about playing with pace, as we have seen with Seth Curry in summer league, is that it inspires confidence in shooters by simply giving them more opportunities. This reasoning is supported by the results as well, Tyreke's best 3 point shooting season came when the Sacramento Kings ran a fast paced offense.
From the look of things, Tyreke Evans has slimmed down reportedly by 10 pounds in order to get quicker. Granted, most of that speculation comes from fans looking at Tyreke's Instagram. Another thing you can see on Tyreke's Instagram is that he has been hitting the gym late night to work on his pull up jumper.
Counterpoints and Conclusions
The news from Tyreke's 2012-13 season is not all good. During his 2012-13 season with the Kings, he posted an all time low in assists per game (3.5) and all time worst defensive rating (111). Needless to say, Tyreke will have to increase on his 6 assists per game average this past season and fix his off-ball defense if he truly wants to complete his transformation into a legit NBA star.
The assist issue is less concerning for me because no one on the Sacramento Kings wanted to pass the ball that year. Isiah Thomas led the team in assists with a paltry 4 per game. Defense, however, will be an issue. Oleh took a look at how Darren Erman can help Tyreke resolve his defensive woes here.
Tyreke Evans has never been a "bad" player, but he is a connoisseur of frustration for NBA fans. As has been well documented, he started his career with a bang by winning rookie of the year. Since then, his growth as a player has been in baby steps instead of leaps and bounds. After watching the Pelicans summer league play, I expect Tyreke Evans to finally become the star he once appeared destined to be.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below. For more of my personal musings about the NBA and Pelicans you can follow me on twitter @jdbillio.