The NBA can’t quit Tyreke Evans.
He has put together a seven-year career with two franchises and perennially underwhelmed. After scoring 20 points per game as a rookie with Sacramento in 2009-10 — drawing comparisons to LeBron James — Evans has failed to top the 18-point barrier since. He often tried to become a three-point shooter as the league shifted around him, to once again underwhelming success. Evans is, at this point in his career, more of an idea than an effective player. He is the 6-6 point guard who should be able to control games on both ends but has never found the necessary consistency. He is also in the final year of his four-year contract with the New Orleans Pelicans.
With how the salary cap is rising, there would be nothing less surprising than seeing Evans garner a new huge deal in free agency after this season. But that would at least depend on him playing something approaching a full season. At the moment, that detail remains up in the air. While his team is preparing for preseason basketball, Evans is still rehabbing after knee surgery. Even once he’s healthy, which general manager Dell Demps estimated could be late in the calendar year, then there’s the issue of finding him minutes on a crowded Pelicans roster.
Counting Evans, there are as many as nine guards currently under contract with New Orleans. The other eight men range from definite starters like Jrue Holiday (once he returns) to rookies like Buddy Hield to lottery tickets like Lance Stephenson. Arguably all eight have a case for playing time over Evans. He is a poor perimeter defender with a (relatively) bloated contract who usually has issues spacing the floor and may not possess the power to penetrate the lane similar to before the knee issues began.
He could be a man without a skill.
But the NBA and New Orleans can’t quit Evans. It’s why he has played more than 33 minutes per game over his career and has a usage rate in the mid- to high-20s. There is something about Evans’ game that feels impressive even if the results are not. It’s the counting stats that lack substance but look good in the box scores weeks later. It’s the 16-5-5 career averages that put him in rarefied air.
Evans is not the type of player that does well with an Anthony Davis. He shouldn’t have a place on this Pelicans team because they will be better off going in another direction: a better defender like E’Twaun Moore, a better shooter like Hield. Last year, Evans was the seventh-worst defender in the league according to expected field-goal-percentage-allowed of players who played in at least 25 games. 25 games was all Evans managed because of injury, but he sputtered in his chances. He also came up short in getting the ball in the basket. Of the top 12 players in drive points last season, Evans shot the worst. He was the worst percentage shooter from that group in paint touches as well.
Evans is a man without an exceptional skill. He is a guard who clogs the floor like a big. His ability to penetrate and/or muscle smaller defenders is declining but may be fine on a second unit. Nevertheless, with Davis on the floor, a possession is better served moving through the actual big rather than utilizing Evans.
It may sound harsh to label Evans as a man without a purpose in this league, and it is slightly exaggerating. There are teams who could use Evans as their primary ball handler and creator, but these are not teams with championship aspirations; nor are they clubs with a franchise player like Davis who needs to have a roster around him that plays more to his skillset. Despite his frame and physique, Evans almost seems like a point guard from a past generation where getting into the paint was the only requirement. New Orleans will be hard-pressed to find useful scenarios in which to unleash Evans in 2016-17.
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