Why Tyreke Evans Would Be Ideal Fit with Jrue Holiday for New Orleans Pelicans

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2013

Don't pack your bags yet, Eric Gordon. Just know that Tyreke Evans can help Jrue Holiday turn the New Orleans Pelicans into a winner with or without you.

Less than a week after acquiring an All-Star point guard from the Philadelphia 76ers, the Pelicans jumped at the opportunity to acquire the Sacramento Kings free agent.

According to Sam Amick of USA Today, New Orleans made a "lucrative" offer to the 23-year-old almost as soon as free agency began.

The offer in question is believed to be worth somewhere around $44 million over four years.

Since Evans is a restricted free agent, the Kings will have the right to match any offer. Should Sacramento decide he's not worth the $11 million or so annually, Evans will join Holiday in what has suddenly become an extremely crowded backcourt.

The Pelicans already have Greivis Vasquez, Austin Rivers and Eric Gordon under contract next season, in addition to the newly acquired Holiday and the potentially signed Evans.

Vasquez would presumably reprise his roll as a backup point guard behind Holiday. One season after dishing out nine assists per game as a full-time starter, he isn't liable to be thrilled with the idea of a reduced role. But again, Holiday's an All-Star.

Rivers' role will no longer vacillate between that of a starter and reserve; he'll be coming off the bench exclusively. New Orleans attempted to transition him into more of a hybrid guard role during his rookie season, but he's best served as a volume-shooting 2. Holiday's arrival will allow him to see even more time at shooting guard.

Then, there's Evans and Gordon: the Dilemma.

Both are essentially shooting guards, and though we liken Evans to a Manu Ginobili-esque player, the Pelicans aren't preparing to pay him stacks of cash to join a bench mob that already includes Ryan Anderson and Rivers.

Concerned about his health, the Pelicans haven't hesitated to shop Gordon before and could do so again. Or they could let this roster roll. That is an option, as is the beauty of this potential marriage.

Moving beyond the fact that the final three seasons of Gordon's four-year, $58 million contract will be difficult to move, Evans doesn't make dealing Gordon a necessity. The former Rookie of the Year can man the point and shooting guard positions, as well as the small forward spot.

With the Kings last season, he spent 11 percent of the team's total minutes at small forward, or 22.4 percent of his total minutes. Such instances saw him post a PER of 16.6 per 48 minutes, markedly above the league average of 15.

At 6'6", Evans has the size and skill set to serve as the Pelicans' version of a prime Ginobili. And any team would welcome the opportunity to house an athlete capable of making that kind of an impact.

His placement alongside Gordon is a bit more complicated than when the San Antonio Spurs inserted Manu into the starting lineup alongside Danny Green during the NBA Finals (Gordon is undersized at 6'3" as it is), but it's not impossible. It's also the least of New Orleans' worries.

The fourth overall pick in the 2009 draft, Evans became just the fourth player in league history to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists as a rookie.

Joining the ranks of Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James isn't a small feat, no matter whom you play for.

Though Evans' production has entered a steady decline over the last three seasons, bouts with plantar fasciitis have hindered his performance. A poorly run Sacramento franchise with a propensity for misusing its players puts him at a disadvantage as well.

Even so, Evans is only the 26th player in NBA history to average at least 17 points, four rebounds, four assists and one steal per game through his first four seasons. Others on that list include Jordan, LeBron, Magic Johnson, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Dwyane Wade, Allen Iverson, Larry Bird and Stephen Curry, among others.

Use Evans' slightly diminished output over the past few years as a means to discredit his ceiling if you must, but there is potential there.

Not many players his size can run an offense as effectively as he can. He's improved his handle a great deal over the last few years and his penchant for seeping through to the paint makes him an excellent drive-and-kick option.

To this day, his ability to play off the ball does continue to be questioned, however. Evans has never been an especially accurate outside shooter and needed to dominate the ball to take control of a game.

In what may have been his final campaign with the Kings, though, Evans took great strides toward improving his off-ball movements and shooting. Per Synergy Sports (subscription required), he knocked down 36.8 percent of his spot-up treys, an impressive number considering he connected on just 33.8 percent of his threes overall (a career high).

Continuing to evolve as a shooter and strengthening his mid-range game will prove vital to his tenure in New Orleans, if he winds up there. According to Hoopdata.com, he shot a mere 32.6 percent between nine and 23 feet. To find success as a 2 or 3, he must become a more dangerous shooter.

But that's the thing about investments—they take time. Next to a drive-and-kick scholar like Holiday, Evans has more freedom to develop his skills as a constant wing.

Jump-starting the occasional offensive set will be a part of his job description—especially if the Pelicans lose Vasquez to restricted free agency next summer—but he won't be as much of a tweener. New Orleans can give him the opportunity to take over a particular position almost exclusively, a luxury he wasn't really afforded in Sacramento.

Until July 10, nothing is official. The Kings could still retain the player once considered a franchise savior. If Evans does wind up in New Orleans, however, we'd be wise not to write his addition off or refer to it as excessive. He can help the Pelicans; he can play alongside Holiday (and even Gordon).

And New Orleans may surprise us all as a result.



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