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Tyreke Evans is saving himself

There hasn’t been much to look forward this season, but Tyreke Evans has been refreshing in an otherwise down year.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

All Stats are current before Clippers game

The Grizzlies season has been far from what some people expected from this team. It has been an underwhelming season, to say the least, with injuries, front office turmoil, and lack of roster talent. The next move will likely be to have some sort of roster rebuild, but the front office has yet to decide on a direction. However, with all this going on this season, there has been one bright spot on this team- Tyreke Evans.

Back in early November, I wrote about Tyreke and posed the question of if he could continue the early success that he had through eight games into the season. The answer to that question is absolutely yes, he can.

Evans is averaging 19.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game this season. He is continuously the Grizzlies top scorer each night. It is remarkable that he has transformed his game from an average player on the decline to a player in the top 25 in PER (23.1). The Grizzlies signed on Evans as a guy who would bring some scoring to the bench unit, but now that free agent signing looks to be one of the best in the NBA.

Many people around the NBA have labeled Tyreke Evans as “a good stats, bad team” type of player. Someone has to score, so Evans is just soaking up that opportunity being ball dominant. However, that is not totally the case. Tyreke Evans has always had the raw talent to play at this level. In his first three years in the league with Sacramento, he averaged 18.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game. Plus, let’s not forget he won the Rookie of the Year in 2009, as well. This year, we are seeing Tyreke channel that inner talent and play at a level from back in his heyday.

Throughout his whole career, he has been a ball-dominant guard that thrives in isolations. Per a tweet from the Commercial Appeal’s Peter Edmiston, Tyreke is averaging 1.21 points per possession and a 59% effective field goal percentage in isolation this season.

Last season, he strictly scored and did not really contribute elsewhere on the stat sheet. He averaged a career low in assists and rebounds which was the main reason he was not a highly touted free agent. The transformation this year has come in his selflessness and improved passing that was not expected from him.

One of the most notable tendencies that have increased his assist total is his vision off the dribble drive. Being a dominant scorer, teams have to scheme for him creating on his own which open passing lanes off the drive. Two players converge on the drive opening up a free shooter. Normally, the shot would still go up, but this year that has changed. This upgraded vision has resulted in him getting back to the assist rate he had in the first three years of his career.

Another improved part of Tyreke Evans’s game that proves he is not just a “good stats on a bad team player” is his three-point percentage. This season he is shooting a career-best 42.6% from three which ranks 21st in the league. He is shooting knock down threes time and time again for Memphis in all different ways. He has transitioned his shot to another level.

Evans is shooting 46.7% on assisted three-pointers which is down from his career average but means he is shooting 53.3% off the dribble. Now, this could be a variation of things on why this is, but it does show that Evans is shooting better off the dribble than he ever has.

The point guard duties for Evans is something that was never expected of him any other point in his career. Because of the Conley injury, he has actually excelled taking on more of a point guard role up the floor that helps him.

With the ball in hand, Evans has that scorer mentality. This has always been the case, but the shooting percentage has not. We have never seen Tyreke shoot like this in his career, which makes his stock rise more than ever in a contract year.

Also, his true shooting percentage is at a career-high as well at 58.4%. True shooting percentage takes a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account the two-point field goals, three-point field goals, and free throw percentage. Evans has been focused to prove to teams he was worth more than an average mid-offseason free agent pickup.

His improved shooting and vision off the dribble are two things that have highlighted him as the Grizzlies most important asset. Shooting off the bounce, in isolation, and even on the pick-and-roll (shown in my last article on him) are all features that have improved in his game. It is exciting to see his game just elevate to another level each night against tough competition keeping the Grizzlies in games. He is most definitely the current best player on the Memphis roster.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Phoenix Suns Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Now, with all this being said, the Grizzlies need to trade him as soon as they get a good offer. That is not a knock on Evans. Him scoring like this does not do anything for the team. At this point in the season, Memphis needs to look to let the younger guys get playing time who will be with the team in the future. Unfortunately, the Grizzlies will not be able to pay Tyreke the market value he will be offered this offseason. Because of this, he needs to be traded.

As we have seen in the past, contenders have traded their first-round picks for a dominant scorer. Houston traded theirs for Lou Williams, and the Cavaliers traded their first rounder for Kyle Korver. The demand is there, especially if the team needs a proven scorer with an improved three-point shot. The Grizzlies should look to trade Evans soon before an unexpecting injury or regression happens.

All in all, the Grizzlies season has been quite disappointing so far, and it does not look to get any better. However, all is not lost because, as an NBA fan, seeing the development and elevation of Tyreke Evans’s game at a later age is a delight to watch each night. It is a contract year for him, and he knows he is going to be paid a hefty contract. He deserves it. However, that contract will not be coming from Memphis, so the team needs to trade him because he is their best asset. Tyreke Evans may not finish a whole season with the Grizzlies, but his year so far has been a bright spot on an otherwise gloomy season.

All Stats provided by Basketball-Reference. Video provided by

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