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Tyreke Evans' Versatility Is Coming in Handy for the New Orleans Pelicans

this is a discussion within the Pelicans Community Forum; Players like Tyreke Evans are priceless. The ability to seamlessly jump from one position to the next is an invaluable skill possessed by few and mastered by fewer. The New Orleans Pelicans acquired the swingman, along with Jeff Withey, two ...

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Old 01-26-2015, 08:32 AM   #1
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Tyreke Evans' Versatility Is Coming in Handy for the New Orleans Pelicans

Players like Tyreke Evans are priceless.

The ability to seamlessly jump from one position to the next is an invaluable skill possessed by few and mastered by fewer.

The New Orleans Pelicans acquired the swingman, along with Jeff Withey, two summers ago through a three-team sign-and-trade—Greivis Vasquez and two second-round picks (from Portland) went to the Sacramento Kings, and the Trail Blazers received Robin Lopez and Terrel Harris.

After signing a four-year, $44 million deal, Evans struggled a bit during his first month with New Orleans. The former Rookie of the Year (2010), who was a full-time starter with the Kings, managed just 11.9 points through his first 20 games off the bench, including two completely scoreless outings.

But he gradually raised his game as the year unfolded and finished with a modest 14.5 points (43.6 percent), five assists and 4.7 boards.

In year No. 2 with the Pels, Evans has earned his paycheck. He's started 39 times in 42 games, averaging 17.1 points (43.5 percent), 5.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists.

Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon, the starting backcourt, have missed time with serious injuries. But thanks to his aptitude for position-hopping, Evans has helped keep New Orleans from falling completely out of relevance.

Starting at Different Spots

Gordon missed 21 games with a torn shoulder labrum, which forced Evans to slide in at the 2 and also created a hole at small forward.

Evans averaged 17.9 points, five assists and 4.7 boards from Nov. 25 to Jan. 2 as the Pelicans went 10-11.

Most teams don’t have the luxury that the 25-year-old provides: flexibility. Gordon went down, and Evans stepped right up. New Orleans, which has been hovering around the .500 mark all year, didn’t miss much of a beat.

While Gordon is more of a long-range threat (though still explosive), Evans is a physically formidable, athletic playmaker capable of getting to the rim.

Together, the two complement each other well. But Gordon wouldn’t have been able to do what Evans did as far as filling the void at a different position.

Gordon, who had really struggled before getting injured, came back with a vengeance on Jan. 5. Since reclaiming his starting shooting guard role, the 26-year-old has put up 15.3 points (46.3 percent) and 4.8 assists in nearly 35 minutes a night.

Gordon has gone for 15-plus in three of the Pels’ last six contests. He’s been a key factor in the team’s three-game winning streak.

What does this have to do with Evans? Well, without him, Gordon’s recent success—along with the team’s—probably wouldn’t be possible.

Jrue Holiday’s ankle flared up seven days after Gordon returned to action, and he’s now out for two to four weeks with a stress reaction, which, as noted by Jennifer Hale of Fox Sports Southwest, is the precursor to a fracture.

Nate Wolters is the only other true point guard on the roster, and he’s riding his second 10-day deal. New Orleans will be better long term with Holiday running the show, but Evans has thrived in his stead.

On Jan. 18, Evans carried the undermanned Pelicans—without Anthony Davis and Holiday—past the Toronto Raptors. He scored 26 points and hit a game-winning layup over the outstretched arms of three Raptors with under two seconds to play.

“Tyreke was a man down the stretch,” head coach Monty Williams said, per The Associated Press (via ESPN). On Evans’ game-winner, Williams said that he, “basically told Tyreke to go make the play.”

According to ESPN's stats, Evans has averaged 18.6 points, 5.2 assists and 4.8 boards per game as the starting floor general this season. The former King has experience at the 1 and has kept the ‘Cans from falling apart without their normal point guard.

“It hurt our continuity this year losing Eric (Gordon) for 20-plus games and now losing Jrue,” Williams said on Jan. 21, per John Reid of NOLA.com. “You got to figure out a way to overcome it.”

Evans has been that avenue.

Struggles at SF

By nature, Evans is a guard.

He creates matchup problems for smaller opponents, as they’re simply not able to keep the 6’6”, 220-pound beast out of the paint. However, bigger wings can give Evans some trouble on the defensive end.

He’s not much of a jump-shooter...at all. According to Stats.NBA.com, 434 of Evans’ 648 field-goal attempts have come from less than five feet from the tin. He’s stroking 51.4 percent from that range, but once he steps beyond his comfort zone, he's shooting 30.1 percent.

Evans butters his bread by getting to the rim off the bounce, so it’s no surprise that his numbers are better when he’s lined up at guard. Per ESPN, he’s scoring 4.5 more points as a starting guard (18.6) than a starting forward (14.1).

Until Holiday returns, which could be after the All-Star break, Evans is fine where he is. He’s playing well and so are the Pelicans.

But when New Orleans gets back to full strength, bringing “’Reke Havoc” off the bench should be something to consider.

The Pelicans initially intended on using Evans as an off-the-bench spark plug, and perhaps it’d be wise to revisit that idea. He played significantly better as a starter toward the end of last season, but in the three games he’s been used as a reserve this year, Evans has scored 20.3 points, grabbed eight boards and dished out four assists.

Per Sean Deveney of Sporting News, Evans seemed open to the idea when he initially signed with New Orleans:
Whatever role I am playing, I am definitely looking forward to it. I am going to go out there and play hard and try to win games.

[When asked directly if he’d be open to not starting] Yeah, definitely. I have never been worried about where I am playing. I am just happy to be in the situation and that everything has been worked out.

The Pelicans have a few different options at small forward: Luke Babbitt, Quincy Pondexter and Dante Cunningham would all suffice. Making this change, which wouldn't affect his total minutes at all, would allow Evans to play his game and handle the ball with greater frequency.

It'd also give some life to one of the worst benches in all of basketball.

Evans would still play alongside Holiday and/or Gordon at times, of course. It's just that making him a second-unit star would appear to be fully maximizing his strengths as a player.

But who knows if the Pels will ever get the chance to use that idea, being that they seem to be one of the league’s most consistently banged-up teams at any given time.

If backcourt injuries continue to be a problem, the versatile Evans will continue to be a solution.

All stats are accurate as of Jan. 26 and courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.

Read more New Orleans Pelicans news on BleacherReport.com

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