Site Manager’s Note- Please welcome Chip Murphy to the GBB community. Chip is the Senior Editor of Elite Sports New York and joins us as a staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ChipperMurphy.
Only four players in NBA history have averaged 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists as a rookie. Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Tyreke Evans.
One of these things is not like the other, right?
Here’s the thing, though - when Evans entered the Association, the expectations were huge. He was a McDonald’s All-American (right up Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace’s alley) in high school before being named Conference USA Player Freshman of the Year in his lone season at Memphis.
The Sacramento Kings selected him No. 4 overall in the 2009 draft, which is where he put up those gaudy numbers. Evans had four 30-plus point games and a triple-double. It led to him winning the Rookie of the Year Award.
A lot changed after that. Recurring knee problems have caused Evans to miss 157 games over the last seven seasons, including 99 in the last two. The former top-five pick has had two different franchises give up on and trade him before his 28th birthday.
This led to him signing a one-year, $3.3 million contract with the Memphis Grizzlies. Evans will try and rejuvenate his career in Memphis, where he first burst onto the scene in college. However, it doesn’t have to be just a tryout for Evans to prove to the rest of the league he can play. The guy can help out this Grizzlies team.
Evans needs the ball in his hands to be effective. His career usage percentage of 25.3 percent tells that story. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. He can be a secondary ball-handler for Mike Conley much in the same vein as he was for Jrue Holiday in New Orleans.
Conley is undoubtedly a better player. If Evans can stay healthy and the two can get on the same page they can be a dangerous combination. Their biggest issue is that they still play in the tougher conference.
Despite finishing seventh in the mighty West and giving the Spurs a run for their money in last year’s playoffs, Memphis struggled on offense. They were 19th in offensive rating (lowest of any West playoff team) and lost third-leading scorer Zach Randolph in free agency. At this cost, Evans is a great low-risk, high-reward possibility for these Grizzlies.
Evans is a career 16.1 points per game scorer. He’s attempted to add a jumper in recent seasons, but he’s more of a slasher. According to Basketball-Reference.com, the average distance of the FGA in his career is 9.2 feet. In 2014-15 (when he was healthy and played in 79 games) Evans was second in the NBA with 11.8 drives per game. Evans showed his versatility by finishing in the top ten in points and assists off drives.
Mike Conley was the only Memphis player to average over 4 drives per game last season. The team was 28th in drives per game and 24th in points in the paint in the entire NBA. It wasn’t because they were a three-point shooting team either. The Grizzlies were only 15th in three-point makes and 17th in three-point percentage. An aggressive player like Evans would open up new opportunities in the paint and for others on the perimeter.
Memphis will have an uphill battle to make the playoffs again in the West. They were the seventh seed in 2016-17, but multiple teams got better this summer. Denver and Minnesota will both be nipping at their heels after improving by adding Paul Millsap and Jimmy Butler. Tyreke Evans, the guy who has his name in the history books next to two Hall of Famers and LeBron James, could be a sleeper as one of the best offseason additions in the NBA.