this is a discussion within the Pelicans Community Forum; It&rsquo;s an unwritten rule in sports that a player shouldn&rsquo;t lose his starting spot due to injury. Well, the New Orleans Pelicans must bend that rule over their knee and snap it in half next season. Tyreke Evans should enter ...
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|05-26-2015, 03:44 AM||#1|
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Should Tyreke Evans Remain the Pelicans' Starting Point Guard Next Season?
It’s an unwritten rule in sports that a player shouldn’t lose his starting spot due to injury.
Well, the New Orleans Pelicans must bend that rule over their knee and snap it in half next season. Tyreke Evans should enter 2015-16 as the team’s starting point guard.
When Jrue Holiday went down with what turned out to be a devastating ankle injury January 12, New Orleans appeared to be awakened from its postseason dreams. Outside of Anthony Davis, Holiday had arguably been the Pels’ best player on both sides of the ball.
The 24-year-old wound up missing 40 games, but the Pelicans actually made the playoffs due to Evans' superb job of running the show.
It’s unfortunate for Holiday, but he’s been leapfrogged on the PG depth chart.
Numbers Don’t Lie
Holiday returned in early April and helped the Pels win three of their final four games. He also got limited minutes in Round 1 against the Warriors.
Most believed the team would shut Holiday down for the year in late February or early March, so it’s a testament to the point guard’s toughness and determination that he came back at all.
He was clearly less than 100 percent, though, so let’s put those late-season minutes on the back burner for now.
The former Philadelphia 76er was averaging 15.2 points (44.4 percent), 7.1 assists, 3.5 boards and 1.6 steals before he suffered the ankle injury in January. The Pelicans were 18-19 when he got hurt.
Once Evans took the reins, things changed. A guy who went through training camp, the preseason and 37 games as a small forward racked up 16.4 points (46.4 percent), 7.7 dimes, five rebounds and 1.3 steals while starting at the 1.
New Orleans went 26-17 with Evans at the helm (he missed two games), which is even more impressive when the fact that Davis was nagged by a shoulder injury is taken into account.
“The more I get comfortable in the (point guard) position, the better it is for me,” Evans said on May 6, per John Reid of NOLA.com. “I played it good. I know that I've been at that position before and I felt comfortable.”
John Calipari played Evans at the point during their time together at Memphis, and he also dabbled at the position—with less success—during his rookie year with the Sacramento Kings. Something about having AD in the middle and an assortment of shooters on the wing brought out the best in “Reke Havoc,” though.
Physically, Evans (6’6”, 220 pounds) is bigger and stronger than the shifty Holiday (6’4, 205 pounds). Evans has the quicks to beat opponents off the dribble but is also burly enough to barrel ‘em over when he puts his head down.
Early in the season, and for much of his career, Evans had a tendency to get a little shot-happy. He'd drive into the paint and, instead of tossing a lob or kicking out to the three-point line, would launch a wild, contested shot.
But once he was slotted as the starting floor general, Evans began to look for his teammates while still remaining aggressive with the rock.
Jimmy Smith of NOLA.com concurs:
As he became more secure as the starting point guard, Evans was a willing passer whose size gives him the ability to better see the floor when operating the Pelicans' offense.Evans totaled 12 games of 10-plus assists and 15-plus points—three times what Holiday had, quadruple what Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving had and seven fewer than the league MVP:
Holiday has played 74 games combined in the past two years. Can he really be counted on as the team’s go-to point guard for the long run? He’s played well, sure, but being a franchise cornerstone is about playing every night, too.
Evans missed just three games in 2014-15 and excelled in a PG-dominated Western Conference. If it wasn’t for his versatility, New Orleans wouldn’t have had a prayer of making the playoffs.
“He had a ton on his plate,” former coach Monty Williams said of Evans after the season, per Reid. “He did a real good job handling the things I threw at him. Tyreke is a unique basketball player.”
The choice is clear for New Orleans' next coach: Evans should enter next season as the starter.
Holiday’s situation is much foggier. Could the former All-Star accept an off-the-bench role, or will New Orleans be forced to send him packing?
Hopefully for the Pelicans, Holiday heads into next season with an open mind. While Evans has earned the starting position, Holiday is still an important member of this team’s core.
Let’s revisit those postseason numbers now. Holiday played in three of NOLA’s last four regular-season games and averaged 10 points and 3.7 assists in 18.7 minutes while shooting 48 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from downtown.
Take a look at that last number again—57.1 percent from distance. That’s big.
New Orleans was the fourth-most accurate team from beyond the arc, which is a great sign being that the top two shooters were also the league’s top two teams (Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks).
But in terms of converted threes, the Pels ranked 19th with 7.1 per game—mere decimal points above the dreadful New York Knicks (6.8).
Did Holiday’s lengthy absence have anything to do with his team’s long-range struggles? Definitely. He shot 37.8 percent from three-point land throughout the season.
Bringing him and his shooting prowess off the pine would help solve New Orleans’ other glaring problem—lack of bench production.
Pelicans role players like Quincy Pondexter and Alexis Ajinca stepped up at various points throughout the year. But for the most part, the bench was weak. According to Hoops Stats, New Orleans’ 31.9 points per game ranked 19th among all second units.
Norris Cole was an admirable backup after he arrived at the trade deadline, which could present an overcrowding problem for the team's next coach.
But we’ve seen dual-PG lineups work before. The Brooklyn Nets made it to the conference semifinals with Deron Williams and Shaun Livingston sharing the backcourt in 2013-14.
Evans isn’t a shooter—he hit just 18.8 percent of shots from 10-14 feet out, per NBA.com—so teaming up with Holiday, a fellow dribbler, in the starting lineup might feel a bit disjointed.
Instead of trying to change his game, the Pels could sell Holiday on running the show…just the second act.
His playmaking ability would greatly improve one of the league’s thinner benches while Evans orchestrates the starting offense that gave NOLA its first playoff berth in four years.
It’s clear what New Orleans must do to remain a postseason contender next season and beyond.
Holiday just needs to accept his new role.
Unless otherwise noted, stats are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com
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