Welcome Back Tyreke Evans

Tyreke Evans isn’t a robot. He’s heard the whispered sarcasm. Who digresses after winning Rookie of the Year? Or. Who had his greatest moment when he was a rookie? Or. How do you go from Rookie of the Year to…whatever?

Seven years ago, Evans seemed to be a lock for multiple All-Star appearances after his first year in 2009-10.Evans averaged 20.1 points his first season on 45.8% shooting but there were signs that the numbers were written in sand. Evans had no shot to speak of if he wasn’t driving to the rim and finishing. He didn’t really have a position. He wasn’t a point guard per se and he didn’t have the skill to be a shooting guard. He played with big man Boogie Cousins who needed someone on the wing to knock down j’s. That wasn’t Evans game. Quickness, iso sets and rim finishes were.

He was Western Conference Rookie of the Month twice. He won the MVP of the Rookie/Sophomore Game. Tyreke Evans made history. He joined Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James, rookies who posted 20 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists. So much was expected.

No one thought the one and done Evans would struggle for the rest of his career. But no sooner than Tyreke Evans put the Rookie of the Year award on his shelf, the slippery slope began to crumble in what sends NBA players to career hell. Bad knees.

First his left knee. Then two surgeries on his right knee. Then an infection. Evans has missed 26% of his career or 167 games.

Hurt Tyreke Games Missed
2016-17 42
2015-16 57
2012-13 17
2010-11 25

Last season, when he was traded to Sacramento where he is still greatly loved, he showed a glimpse of who he may become, 43.8% from three, launching 48 distance shots in his 14 games played with the Kings. It was a small sample size, but could he reproduce that over the long haul? His knees were almost paper by now. His iso game needed to be cut way back if not retired. He was a free agent. But. Who was he really?

After his knee surgeries, had he lost a lot of quickness? Could he be trusted to make plays off the dribble with explosive defenders coming at him? And what about rim finishes? Going up in the air and then landing awkwardly was a recipe for disaster. His outside shot was always a wing and a prayer so what exactly was his worth?

Not much. He signed a one year deal and is paid less than Ben McLemore who needed hand surgery and hasn’t played a game yet. He is making less than journeyman- he still is in the NBA?- failed lottery pick Brandan Wright. But every sports agent will tell you. One suppressed contract is all a player needs to change everyone’s mind, outperform his paycheck, and set himself up for free agency in 2018.

Evans is in the best situation he has ever been in, but not exactly the most talent he has played with. Anthony Davis and Boogie Cousins are dominant talents but they are not winners. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are winners. With the Grizz revamping their offense, Evans was a gamble but one that didn’t hurt the bottom line if he flamed out.

Flaming out is not what Tyreke Evans is doing. He is the third leading scorer on the Grizz, solidifying the bench with 17.1 points. It is his highest point per game in seven years. He is attempting the most shots in three years. His field goal percentage is off the charts, a career high 48.8%. His three ball is going where it has never been over the long haul, 44.7%. His free throws are up as are trips to the line and he is knocking those babies down, 88.9%. His rebounding is back to Tyreke level, over five a game. He has career highs in offensive rating and defensive rating and his PER is 23.1, unknown territory. For the first time in his career he is shooting over 50% 3-10 feet and over 40% on long two’s. His +/- so far is +13.6. To put that in perspective. Klay Thompson’s +/- is +11.5.

Tyreke is happy and is balling and though many didn’t expect much of the Grizz, he is proving to be the difference maker. The question is, can he keep it up? Is this going to last? Can he avoid the injury matrix?

But live in the present and Tyreke is proving all the doubters wrong. If there wasn’t such a logjam at guards, he’d be an All-Star at his current pace.

Memphis only cares about May and June though, and if they can keep their stars healthy. Conley. Gasol. And Tyreke Evans.

The Memphis version of the Big Three.

 

photo via llananba

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