Yesterday afternoon Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Advocate asked an interesting question on Twitter. Where does Tyreke Evans stand in the history of the New Orleans Pelicans? The results as of this writing are pretty surprising to me, just 26% of respondents put Tyreke Evans in the top ten in franchise history. Really? Is there some wealth of Pelicans (and previously Hornets) history I’m missing?
Evans ranks just outside the top ten in franchise history (since arriving in New Orleans) in minutes and games played with 5,957 minutes played over the course of 202 games. He ranks in the top ten in points (9th - 2,982), assists (3rd - 1,139), PER (6th - 17.8), Box Plus/Minus (8th - 1.3), and VORP (8th - 5.0). Evans certainly ranks below Chris Paul, Anthony Davis, David West, and Baron Davis in franchise lore but beyond those four things get dicey in a hurry.
P.J. Brown and Jamaal Magloire, hold overs from the Charlotte Hornets in 2002, rank high thanks to the relative success those Hornet teams had in their first two seasons in the Crescent City. Magloire was even selected as an All-Star in 2004. That happened! A case could be made for Jamal Mashburn as well despite playing just one full season in New Orleans. Mashburn (2003), Magloire (2004), and Baron Davis (2004) compose the entirety of franchise All-Star selections outside of Paul, West, and Anthony Davis.
For brevity we’ll include every player to be selected to an All-Star game in a New Orleans uniform; Chris Paul (4 times), Anthony Davis (4 times), David West (2 times), Baron Davis, Jamaal Magloire, and Jamal Mashburn. P.J. Brown and Tyson Chandler, bulwarks of playoff teams, also get in our top ten. Eight players selected and two slots remaining.
As I see it, there are four players we can realistically discuss for those last two spots. Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, Peja Stojakovic, and Ryan Anderson. Yes, the pickings are that slim. Stojakovic, thanks to his contributions to the incredible 2008 team that nearly made the Western Conference Finals, locks down the 9th spot. So, three injury prone players of the most current era battle for the last spot.
It goes to Tyreke Evans, for much of the same reason Stojakovic took the 9th spot. It was Evans that carried the load for the 2015 team to make the playoffs, the first and only trip to the postseason in the Anthony Davis era. During that critical run after the All-Star Break it was Evans who did the heavy lifting with both Holiday and Anderson on the shelf due to injuries. Evans logged 896 minutes as the Pelicans went 18-11 to secure a playoff spot; Anderson and Holiday played just 278 minutes combined.
Aside: You may think I’m being hypocritical in ranking Evans ahead of Jrue Holiday. There is a significant difference to being more important to the franchise’s past (Evans) and being a better fit for the franchise’s future (Holiday). It is possible to recognize that Evans currently has a greater standing in franchise lore and still believe that Holiday is superior option for the franchise going forward.
Should the Pelicans have a tribute video on hand for Tyreke’s return to New Orleans? Absolutely. Thank him for his many contributions to the Pelicans over the last four years. Thank him for telling Anthony Davis “straight gas, not stoppin’ at no stores” during the deciding game over the San Antonio Spurs to end the 2015 season. Thank him for carrying sufficient expiring salary to allow New Orleans to trade for DeMarcus Cousins!
Thank you, Tyreke Evans. Thank you for everything.