In the 2017-18 season, only eight NBA players averaged more than 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. Five of those players, a group made up of James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, are the last five MVP winners. Two of those players are perennial All Stars in DeMarcus Cousins and Blake Griffin. The last one, however, is the Indiana Pacers new sixth man, Tyreke Evans.
Coming out of the University of Memphis, Evans looked primed to be a future superstar. This was validated by his rookie year when he averaged 20 points, 5.8 assists, and 5.3 rebounds per game. He was rewarded with Rookie of the Year (2010). Then injuries hit. He sprained his left ankle on numerous occasions, had tendinitis in his right knee, and hamstring issues throughout his stint with the Sacramento Kings.
He couldn’t find consistency anywhere he went, and eventually became an NBA journeyman, starting with the Kings, heading to the New Orleans Pelicans, only to go back to the Kings for half a season, and finally a career year with the Memphis Grizzlies. His falloff can be heavily attributed to the Kings misconstruction of the roster.
In his first few years in the league, Evans was best suited with the offense running through him, whether it was a full time point guard or point forward. Early in his career, he was never a great shooter. He would have fit perfectly next to a “3 and D” guard in the backcourt, but the Kings front office decided to bring in Marcus Thornton, who could not shoot the 3 efficiently or lock down anyone, to pair with Evans. They also swung and missed on Jimmer Fredette in the 2011 draft. This stunted Evans growth, eventually forcing him out of Sacramento.
Evans has now signed a 1-year, $12 million-dollar deal with the Indiana Pacers. He has the potential to be a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, as he brings playmaking and scoring to the Pacers bench that was one of the worst in the league. In 2017-18, they ranked 22nd in the NBA in points per game (32.8), and 18th in assists per game (7.9).
Evans, who averaged 19 points and 5 assists last season, can increase those numbers while giving All Star Victor Oladipo a secondary playmaker to help create shots for others.
President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard told the media:
“You have to have two guys that can make plays. A lot of the times we saw in the playoffs last year, with Victor in the pick-and-roll, they can take him out of his best thing. If you have two playmakers on the court with shooting and being able to space, it’s tough to defend.”
Evans, listed at 6’6, 220 pounds, is extremely versatile on the defensive end and opens up countless lineup possibilities. Last season, the Grizzlies generated a defensive rating of 105.6 with him on the court and a rating of 110.3 when he was off the floor. Because he is 6’6, he can guard many different positions effectively. Head Coach Nate McMillan addressed this in the press conference.
“I think [Evans] can play several different positions. He’ll be playing the two guard, and he’ll swing to some one. I think he has the versatility.”
Evans fits almost perfectly onto this Indiana Pacers team. They already battled LeBron’s Cavs and took them to seven games, and now they are adding a great two way player in Tyreke Evans. He can space the floor, attack off the dribble, and create shots for their spot up shooters. He also provides defense and toughness to the bench, something they lacked in previous years.
He may not fill up the stat sheet like he did in Memphis, but the Pacers are going to win games, something Evans did not do much of last season. He said during the introductory press conference:
“I like to win. Good game, bad game, if we’re winning and everybody’s on the same page, that’s all I care about.”
For the first time in his career, Evans has a chance to really contribute to a playoff team, and the rest of the NBA should be wary of this talented Indiana Pacers team.