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In Brief, The Pelicans: Tyreke Evans

The Basketball Internet has been talking about the Pelicans non-stop since before they even got their name, but they hadn’t truly debuted on the national stage until they faced off with the Golden State Warriors in the first round last year. They failed to take a game from the soon-to-be champs, but when Anthony Davis torched the best defense in the NBA for 20 points in the fourth quarter of Game 1, the country sat up and paid attention. The league took notice of that surprisingly competitive series and scheduled the Pellies for 13 national TV games this year, tying a franchise record set in 2008-09 and nearly doubling the seven they’d played across Davis’s first three seasons.

If you’re a fan of the NBA who hasn’t been following the team, this is good news and bad news. The bad news is you’ve officially missed the bandwagon on one of the most exciting young teams in the Association, and won’t be able to tell your friends you liked them before they were cool. The good news is you get to watch the team coalesce around Davis, who already looks like one of the best players in the league, and a new coach who was brought in to make the team run. And since their season opener at Golden State is already appointment viewing, this seems like the time to get to know the team a little bit, starting today with guard/forward Tyreke Evans.

Who is he?

In a lot of ways the best way to think about Tyreke Evans is in comparison to LeBron James, which may sound crazy but if you suspend your disbelief for a second it will all make sense. In a 1993 issue of X-Men, Magneto tore the Adamantium off of Wolverine’s skeleton, presumably taking away the claws he had been given in the Weapon X program. However, next month revealed that Wolverine was born with claws of bone, that he was still fearsome, albeit with diminished resilience, destructive prowess and even, as his overactive healing factor increased his bestial aspect, his problem solving ability. If an evil mutant mastermind ripped away the transcendent court vision and supreme athleticism that make LeBron the best there is at what he does, you’d end up with something that looked a lot like Tyreke Evans.

Much like James, Evans is an impressively versatile player with excellent court vision, great size for his position and an uncanny ability to get to the rim. He won Rookie of the Year as the starting point guard for the Sacramento Kings in 2010, and took over as the Pelicans’ floor general when Jrue Holiday was injured last season. However, his vision has a tendency to desert him in key moments, especially towards the end of games, and whereas LeBron started out a mediocre three-point shooter and steadily improved, Evans has never managed even a league-average shooting season from deep. Perhaps most damning however, is that while he has little trouble finding his way to the rim, he can’t always be counted on to finish when he gets there – especially, as Bourbon Street Shots pointed out in their review of his last season, against the league’s tougher interior defenses.

What was his best game last season?

According to NBA.com, it’s his triple double in a win at Oklahoma City on Feb. 6, when he put up 22/16/10 against a Thunder team enjoying one of the rare moments when it could field its entire starting five. It was pretty much everything you could hope for from Evans, up to and including the nearly fatal turnover in the closing seconds of the game. If you want to watch the highlights, and of course you do because there hasn’t been a real basketball game in months, YouTube All-Star Dawkins has you covered.

What can you expect from him this season?

There’s a lot still up in the air for Tyreke as we head into training camp. Holiday may be playing on a minutes restriction for the entire regular season, which could leave a lot of playing time for Evans at the point. There’s also a vocal contingent of fans that think ‘Reke earned a starting spot flat out with his play last season, but if Holiday replaces him on the bench, the perimeter defense could get mighty porous no matter how well Omer Asik and Davis protect the rim. The best-case scenario might be a Ginobili-esque bench role, where he comes off the bench to torment opposing backups, as well as playing with the starters for long stretches.

In a recent interview with the Sporting News, Evans played up his desire for stability this season, saying “Hopefully I can focus on one position this year,” before making his willingness to hand over the point-guard position clear by stating that “I think I had it rolling when me and Jrue, when he was playing the one and I was playing the two.” No matter what role he’s in though, it seems safe to hope for a pretty strong season from ’Reke, as new coach Alvin Gentry is on record as believing that the style of play he plans to implement suits Tyreke better than anyone else on the team. Pushing the pace means more off-balance defenses, more lanes through the paint and more open shooters – all areas where Evans has the chance to make a serious impact.

Should you follow him on social media?

‘Reke’s Twitter game is, at best, generic. There’s some retweeted song lyrics, links to Instagram posts and the occasional photo, but he tweets sporadically enough that there’s no reason to mess up your ratio by following him. Instagram however, is another story. Did you know he was in Israel recently? You would if you’d seen him chilling in the Dead Sea. He also has a daughter who he clearly loves to death and who is cute enough to challenge Riley Curry if given the chance to seize a mic. And there’s a video of him throwing down a windmill slam as he leaps into a swimming pool and draining shots from the shallow end, so you’ve got some lighthearted variety thrown in too. All in all, an excellent IG follow.

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