What Tyreke Evans Brings to the Table Offensively

The addition of Tyreke Evans provides the Pacers with another dynamic offensive option to pair with Oladipo.

Entering this offseason, the Pacers had numerous roster needs to address (perimeter shooting and rebounding) but none was more important than their need for a second playmaker/scorer to pair with Victor Oladipo. It was very apparent late in the regular season that opposing teams' defensive game plan was to force the ball out of Oladipo’s hands and force someone else to make a play. When the defense employed a trap on Oladipo in a pick-n-roll it resulted in a turnover 30 percent of the time. During games 3-5 in their first-round playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, it appeared the season-long burden of carrying the offense caught up with him as he averaged under 16 points per game with a 24/22/82 shooting split.

The signing of Tyreke Evans addresses this major need. The 2010 rookie of the year resurrected his career with the Memphis Grizzlies last season. In 52 games, Evans averaged 19.4 points (45/39/78), 5.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game in almost 31 minutes of action. He was one of eight players to average at least 19-5-5 last year. The other seven players are perennial all-stars and all-NBA team members. With his unique offensive skill set, expect Evans to split time as the primary offensive option as well as a complementary piece to Oladipo.

Scorer/Playmaker Impact

As mentioned earlier, the Pacers did not have another player on the roster to can create their own shot consistently outside of Oladipo. For all of last season, Oladipo was the only player to average over one point per possession in isolation type plays (1.028 via NBA). The next best player with over 40 possessions was Darren Collinson who scored .982 points per possession but only had a total of 55 possessions throughout the season. This is where Evans will prove to be valuable as he was extremely effective as a scorer in isolation plays where he produced 1.021 points per possession. Out of players who had at least 100 possessions, Evans ranked 10th in points per possession which was one spot behind Oladipo. Making the Pacers one of two teams to have two players in the top 10 within this criteria last year with the Rockets being the other team (James Harden/Chris Paul).

What makes Evans so effective as an isolation scorer is his ability to drive. Whether it was driving to the paint or for a pull-up jumper, it felt like Evans was able to get to anywhere on the floor at will. The data support this notion about Evans as Synergy graded him as “very good” at drives where he produced 1.068 points per possession.

Evans was more than just an isolation scorer last season, as he was also able to generate shots for himself in the pick-and-roll. His ability to not only generate dribble jumpers but also knock them was among the league-best last season. Among the 70 players that had at least 100 possessions, Evans ranked third with 1.246 points per possessions and only trailed Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving.

With defenses having to account for Evans lethal jumper last season, it opened up more driving lanes in the pick-and-roll. Evans took advantages of these openings as he took to the basket over 50 percent of the time when he dribbled off the pick. Unfortunately, Evans lacked efficiency in this area as he only managed 1.041 points per possession and ranked near the bottom among players who had at least 100 possessions. Should Pacers fans be discouraged about his lack of efficiency in this area? Absolutely not, as there were some contributing factors to Evans inefficiency. The most glaring and most impactful was the lack of reliable three-point shooters on the Grizzlies last season. As a team, the Grizzlies shot 35 percent from three which was the sixth worst in the league. With no real threat from the outside, defenses were able to clog up the paint making it difficult for Evans to finish around the rim. This would not be an issue for Evans this year with Pacers as he will be surrounded with better shooters which will give him better looks in the paint.

The lack of shooting on the Grizzlies also impacted Evans as a playmaker in the pick-and-roll. Evans' overall numbers as a passer were solid as he graded out as “average” by generating .995 points per possession. However, when you take a closer look, the lack of reliable spot-up options contributed to Evans' pedestrian numbers. On 212 possessions where Evans passed it out to a spot-up shooter, it generated .835 points per possessions which was the worst among 21 players with at least 200 possessions. As mentioned earlier, the Grizzlies were a poor shooting team last year and the stats back it up as they were the 28th best spot-up team a year ago. This year Evans will be surrounded with better spot-up players which will not only improve his passing numbers but also lead to more quality to looks when driving to the basket.

Off-Ball Impact

An early knock on Evans career was his inability to play without the ball as he was labeled as a player who needs the ball in his hands to be effective. He began showing improvement in this area during his time in New Orleans where he shared playmaking duties with Jrue Holiday and has only gotten better since then. This was evident last year where Evans averaged 1.083 points per spot-up possessions. He especially efficient in those catch and shoot situations where he averaged 1.2 points per possession and had an effective field goal percentage of 55 according to Synergy. His ability as a proficient spot-up shooter will allow both Evans and Oladipo to share the floor together and keep opposing defenses off-balance.

Despite his expanded role as an off-ball player last season, Evans was still considerably underutilized in this area. With Mike Conley’s season-ending injury last year, Evans had to be used as the primary ball handler more often than what the Grizzlies coaching staff would have liked. With a litany of guards who can initiate the offense, coach Nate McMillan should utilize Evans in some more off-ball action such as hand-offs and off-screen plays. Last season, Evans was very efficient in dribble hand-off plays, averaging 1.038 points per possession on 52 total possessions and had an effective field goal percentage of 51. Despite being efficient, only 5.1 percent of Evans' possessions last year were DHO. Expect these number to increase as the Pacers were the second best DHO team last season with 1.019 points per possession.

While it was a small sample size, Evans graded out as “excellent” in off-screen sequences via Synergy. Among 148 players who had at least 25 possessions, Evans was the second best with an output of 1.462 points per possessions. This was an area that the Pacers struggled with last season as they ranked 23rd in the league in off-screen play type.

Lineup Creativity

With having a player like Evans to pair with Oladipo, it will be important for Nate McMillan to put his two best playmakers in a position to succeed. One way to do this is to place more of an emphasis on spacing while one or both players are on the court. This would mean playing more non-traditional lineup for extended periods during games. A lineup consisting Oladipo/Evans/Bojan Bogdanovic/Doug McDermott/Myles Turner would achieve this. With two knocked down shooters on the floor in and Turner who is a capable shooter from deep as well a quality roll man would give both Oladipo and Evans to make something special happen in both isolations and in the pick-and-roll. Forcing defenses to choose between potentially leaving shooters open in an attempt to contain either Oladipo and Evans or to stay put and allow the two playmakers to carve up their defenders on their own for quality looks.

Conclusion

The Pacers lacked a reliable secondary scorer and playmaker last season. With Evans now in a Pacers uniform, fans can expect the Pacers to improve on their 108.5 offensive rating from last year with more offensive potent lineups and (hopefully) more offensive creativity. 

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