Tyreke Evans Must Be Primary Ball-Handler to Thrive in New Orleans

Maxwell Ogden@MaxwellOgdenCorrespondent IIIJuly 4, 2013

March 17, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings point guard Tyreke Evans (13) moves the ball up court against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

According to Sam Amick of USA Today, the New Orleans Pelicans have a verbal agreement in place to acquire 2010 Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans from the Sacramento Kings. Amick reports that the deal involves three teams including the Portland Trail Blazers.

If the deal goes through, the only way for Evans to thrive in New Orleans is to join Jrue Holiday as the team's primary ball-handlers.

Per Amick, the Pelicans will receive Evans and send point guard Greivis Vasquez to the Kings. New Orleans will also send center Robin Lopez and shooting guard Terrel Harris to the Trail Blazers, while Sacramento will receive two second-round picks from Portland.

In a classy move, Evans took to Twitter to thank the Sacramento fans for their support during his time with the team.

He will receive $44 million over the next four seasons from New Orleans.

Evans may be a rising star, but that doesn't mean he's going to thrive in every situation.

With a stacked perimeter, it may be difficult for Evans to emerge as the primary ball-handler in New Orleans. With that being said, Evans has a playing style that commands a certain approach and treatment.

Here's how New Orleans can maximize his elite abilities.


How He Scores

Evans finished the 2012-13 season in strong form, posting averages of 15.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.4 steals per game. He posted a player efficiency rating of 18.16 on a slash line of .478/.338/.775.

After evaluating the advanced numbers, it's clear how Evans finds his points.

Plain and simple, Evans is a slasher who is at his best when he enters the lane and finishes at the rim.

Evans is capable of shooting off the catch and taking passes as a cutter, but he's most comfortable with the ball in his hands. Keep in mind, his averages in 2012-13 displayed a shell of the player he was when Sacramento made him its primary ball-handler.

So how can New Orleans make this work?


Jrue Holiday's Impact

In recent seasons, it would be blasphemous to suggest a team employ a two lead-guard system. In today's NBA, however, multiple teams have adopted the notion that two players capable of facilitating and scoring bolsters an offense.

The Pelicans' advantage is that their two point guards are big.

Evans stands at 6'6" and 220 pounds, while All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday checks in at 6'4" and 205 pounds. Both players are supreme ball-handlers who have been successful at taking defenders off the bounce.

They're also capable facilitators with one key ingredient to throw into the mix—Holiday can shoot the lights out.

Holiday is a career 37.4 percent shooter from three-point range, displaying his ability to stroke the three-ball. According to Synergy Sports, Holiday shot 44.2 percent on spot-up jump shots and 48.1 on spot-up three-pointers.

By comparison, Evans converted 36.8 percent from beyond the arc on spot-up attempts—New Orleans must maximize this versatility.


Pros and Cons

As nice as this may sound on paper, this approach also has flaws that New Orleans must consider.

The question is, do the drawbacks outweigh the benefits?

The pros of this system are evident, as the Pelicans have two top-tier spot-up shooters in Holiday and Ryan Anderson. Both will space the floor for Evans to attack off the bounce, thus opening drive-and-dish opportunities and enabling him to finish at the rim.

Unfortunately, there is a major hitch in this plan—Eric Gordon is currently at the 2.

The trio may be high quality on paper, but each player commands the ball. Holiday may be an elite facilitator, and Evans may be effective in that regard as well, but all three players are most comfortable with the ball in their hands.

Can the Pelicans get everyone enough touches to not only maximize their upside but keep them happy?

Gordon, a 6'3" shooting guard, instantly pushes Evans to playing small forward. If that's the case, there's a strong possibility that New Orleans will use him as an off-ball player when Holiday and Gordon share touches in the backcourt.

That doesn't bode well for New Orleans, as Basketball-Reference reports Evans shot 31.3 percent on jump shots in 2012-13.

If Evans is able to come in and handle the ball for the Pelicans, it will open up their offense and enable their shooters to thrive. If they trust Evans to become a jump shooter, however, his efficiency will be limited.

This may be an excellent on-paper trade, but New Orleans has some decisions to make before Evans becomes comfortable in its system.


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