It's time for Tyreke Evans to wake up and smell the bacon.
I'm speaking figuratively of course. Unless he just really has a thing for bacon, then he can have the real thing too. What I'm trying to say is, it's time for Evans to realize his calling in the NBA. He has an opportunity to truly flourish in his projected role with the Pacers this season, but undoubtably it's been a long time coming. As the 4th overall pick in the 2009 draft, most saw Evans as a can't miss prospect with dynamic playmaking skills and a NBA ready body. He made good on the hype in year one, posting strong averages of 20.1PPG/5.3REB/5.8AST.
Approximately 95% of pro athletes would give their right meniscus for a season average similar to this, and Evans reached this coveted milestone in his rookie year, fresh out of the University of Memphis. Sure he shot sub 30% from three, but is before the 3 point explosion of the last few years. 51% of his shots came within 1-3 feet (bball ref) and for good reason. He was an absolute bulldozer down there.
Oh, and he averaged 1.5 steals for good measure.
He was the man right away as the infamous Sacramento Kings chucked 37 minutes a game his way and he was well on his way to a decorated career.
Or so we thought. In a cruel twist of fate, this rookie campaign turned into Evans' shining moment and his production stagnated moving forward. Between 2010-2011 and 2016-2017 seasons, those numbers dropped to 15.4PPG/4.7REB/5.0AST. Still solid to be sure, but he peaked in his rookie year, and that's quite disappointing for a top five pick who was potentially destined for the hall of fame.
Last year however, something clicked. Tyreke took hold of a Memphis roster ravaged by injury and acted as a lifeline when all hope was lost. All of the gifts that made him such a menace earlier in his career were on full display and the opportunity lined up perfectly.
Approaching the end of the quarter and the shot clock, Memphis needed a get out of jail free card and Evans delivered, sending Sacramento flash backs racing through our brains.
The Grizzlies were definitely lacking in the talent department once Conley went down and Gasol looked disinterested most games. They needed a hero to bail them out, so Tyreke was more than happy to oblige when the call was made. He can score with the best of em when he is called upon. Don't get it twisted though, he can be a point forward in spurts as well, acting as a Ben Simmons type distributor. He doesn't boast the flare or dramatics of LeBron or even Lance 'Prance' Stephenson, but he's very adept at finding the right guy at the right time.
He can dissect the pick and roll with precision...
Kick out to the open man after occupying the defense...
And dish out pinpoint passes in transition.
The precision and timing as on point to say the least.
At this point, I'm fairly confident that you are wondering what all of this talk has to do with his case for 6th man of the year. Long story short, he was made for this. His initial stint wth the Kings gave him complete control over the offense and allowed him to gain supreme confidence in his game. Think about all of the players in history who have been 'the guy' on their squad. Matter of fact, let's bring it closer to home. How about the 6'5" do it all forward from your local rec team that can abuse the defense at will. Those guys are proud of their abilities to the point of being cocky, right? That was the first step in Tyreke's career path. He learned what could be. Step two was his rocky decent back to earth, where he had to come to grips with his shortcomings and realize he wasn't cut out to be the franchise superstar that he teased in year one. This was a part of learning was he wasn't. Last season gave him the chance to see what he could cook up leading a bench squad in Memphis (Ok, he started alot, but most of that roster were bench level players anyway...you get the picture.) Let's say he figured out what he should be on this stop.
Finally, that brings us to today. Fresh off Pacers media day, Optimism reigns supreme and Evans is slated as a 6th man since the Pacers will probably go with their tried and true Collison/Oladipo/Bojanavic/Young/Turner lineup to open games. This gives Evans the chance to lead the second unit in Oladipo's absence, play next to him in certain lineups, and even step in as a starter in the event of an injury. We're quite used to seeing 6MOY winners prevail de to their sheer scoring prowess. No offense to those guys, but I love some variety in my life. Crawford and Lou Williams are getting up there in age and Eric Gordon could experience some drop off as well after a strong season in 17-18. It's about time for an all-around player similar to Lamar Odom, James Harden, or Manu Ginobli take up the mantle once again. All of Evans' experiences in his career have prepared him for this moment and he is ready to contribute for an Indiana squad looking to move up a tier into the true elite of the Eastern Conference.
Just in a different manner than was originally expected.