To Tyreke or not to Tyreke

What should the Grizzlies do about Tyreke Evans?

At the halfway point of a season that can charitably be described as troubling, the Memphis Grizzlies lone consistent bright spot as been none other than Tyreke Evans.

Evans, castoff from New Orleans followed by a short return trip to Sacramento, signed a one-year, 3.3 million afterthought of a deal with the Grizzlies in the offseason. Memphis thought they were taking a flyer on a low-risk, medium-reward player coming off of the worst two seasons of his professional career. Evans was expected to provide some much-needed playmaking for bench units. Not even the Grizzlies front office expected him to be as good as he has been.

The former Memphis Tiger returned to the city ready to prove himself, sensing that this may be his last shot to prove that he can still be valuable to a contender. Evans has come through on his end, averaging 19.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.1 steals in the best season since his Rookie of the Year campaign, but the Grizzlies have not proven to be contenders.

After years of staving off funeral notices from national media, the Grit n Grind Grizzlies, having lost a lot of that grit with the offseason departures of the newly thriving Zach Randolph and the Grindfather himself Tony Allen, finally faltered this season.

With an injured Mike Conley, a passive-aggressive feud between Marc Gasol and David Fizdale, a still-confusing firing of Fizdale, and several other injuries and under-performances (hello Chandler Parsons! Please don’t get Grizzlies fans started on Ben McLemore), Memphis has found itself dead in the middle of the race for the top pick in a loaded draft class and a long winning streak away from even being within striking distance of playoff contention.

The roster is a weird mixture of failed first-rounders, passable second-rounders and undrafted rotational guys, whiffed free agent signings, barely above G-League bottom-of-the-barrel types, the two foundational pillars in Gasol and Conley, who are older than the majority of the roster, and Evans in his career-resurgent season.

League-wide discussions have opened up about whether the Grizzlies should #blowitup (a phrase that becomes more and more misused and overused by the day) or try and salvage the season, with many people landing somewhere in the middle. Tank for the remainder of this lost cause of a season, put yourselves in the position to grab Luka Doncic or Trae Young or Marvin Bagley or Collin Sexton or whomever it may be, and pair them with Gasol and Conley while they still have juice left in the tank. It helps the Grizzlies stay competitive for the time being without comprising the future or trading away two beloved, franchise-altering stars. The question is: where does Tyreke Evans fit into these plans?

Yes, he could very well be having a good-stats-bad-team season. There is evidence that backs that claim up, including the fact that he and Gasol are the only people on the entire team who can create their own shot. But, just from using the eye test, it seems Evans is re-invigorated, hungry, and could be a really good rotational piece on a playoff team.

He is obviously a player the Grizzlies could use next season, but his trade value may never be higher than it is right now. He is the perfect type of player that contending teams like to add down the stretch: an off-the-bench creator with a cheap contract. It will basically be a half-season rental to help them achieve their postseason goals.

With the 2017-18 season seemingly whittling down to a tankapalooza for Memphis, why not strike while the iron is hot and trade the guy who was a one-year rental when he signed in the offseason and was never part of franchise’s future plans. The Grizzlies have had a bad draft record in the draft ever since taking Conley a decade ago, but two picks in next year’s loaded draft could be something even the Memphis front office could avoid screwing up.

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