How Tyreke Evans Is Overcoming Painfully Slow Start with New Orleans Pelicans

James Davis@@JDouglasDavisAnalyst IJanuary 5, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 1: Tyreke Evans #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans looks to pass the ball against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the game on January 1, 2014 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Tyreke Evans is finally becoming the consistent contributor the New Orleans Pelicans organization needs him to be.

The versatile swingman’s start to the 2013-14 NBA season was riddled with inconsistent play, but his past few outings have demonstrated that he has turned a corner and is ready to help take the Pelicans franchise to the next level.

Evans’ production uptick shows great maturation on his part.

He has dealt with some pretty significant changes since coming to New Orleans but has persevered and found his niche.

Closer examination of this shift shows that the team made the right call when making him a part of its retooling effort.


The Hurdles

SACRAMENTO, CA - DECEMBER 23: Tyreke Evans #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans in a game against the Sacramento Kings on December 23, 2013 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Changing teams did more than just switch Evans’ setting; his entire professional environment was altered.

He was no longer on a squad that lacked direction despite its talent but rather part of an organization with a concrete blueprint for success.

As shocking as that may have been for Evans, it is doubtful that this culture upgrade had a negative impact on him.

The more likely impediments were probably joining a team that boasted a backcourt that included Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday along with being designated as a bench player for the first time in his professional career.

As a part of the Sacramento Kings, Evans was a first-option player who was expected to carry a big share of the team’s offensive production. Being the backup to a starting pair that included the exceptional talents of Gordon and Holiday meant that he had to reshape the way he fit in.

It was apparent that the process was trial and error for Evans, with an emphasis on the latter; through the team’s first 22 games, he averaged just 11.6 points and 3.7 assists.

That stretch included five games in which Evans scored in single digits and two where he went scoreless.


Breaking Through

In his past eight games, Evans has averaged 18.1 points and 6.4 assists.

His breakout game was a December 23 road contest against his former team, the Sacramento Kings.

While the 25 points, 12 assists and six rebounds sound impressive, it was the 11-of-12 free-throw shooting that was the most telling statistic. Those charity-stripe attempts signaled the return of Evans’ slashing prowess.

His barrage on the lane created scoring opportunities for both himself and his teammates. Evans is most dangerous when he is consistently attacking the rim because the opponents usually have no defensive answer.

The confidence generated by both the easy points and the chances created for his fellow players has shone through in his turnaround.

Evans’ resurgence could not have come at a more optimal time.

In a very competitive Western Conference, the Pelicans are 3.5 games behind the Dallas Mavericks for the eighth playoff seed. There is more than enough basketball left in the current campaign for this team to get it together and make a push for the postseason.

Evans’ play is vital in that it rounds out a second unit that is loaded with shooters, giving the Pelicans a dynamic offensive attack.

If he can continue to get to rim, the floor opens up for some high-quality shot attempts from either in the paint or with open looks from the perimeter.

Things are starting to jell for this club.

As the chemistry continues to improve, do not be surprised if the Pelicans are challenging for one of the lower conference seeds.

Should that happen, Evans is likely to be a big part of the success.

Note: All statistics are accurate as of January 4, 2014.


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