Kevork Djansezian | Getty Images
INDIANAPOLIS – Purely off career production and current contract value, Tyreke Evans is a starter in the NBA.
But when talking about his ideal fit with the Indiana Pacers, a 6th man role for Evans makes a lot of sense.
Evans is joining the Pacers after playing in 52 games (32 starts) with Memphis last season. As a member of the Grizzlies, Evans averaged 19.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists, while playing 30.9 minutes per game.
Those are very impressive numbers, for the 6-6, 220-pound guard, who has more of a health question than an ability issue.
It’s that sort of production which led the Pacers thinking it was worth it to hand out a $12-million deal (on a 1-year contract) for a player with Evans’ health risks.
When the Pacers declined the reasonable $4.3 million team option on Lance Stephenson, a void was there for a creating guard with the second unit.
Indiana’s starting lineup is coming back in 2017-18. Thaddeus Young opting in to his $13.7 million deal two days before free agency started cemented that.
Does the Evans’ signing change the starting unit staying intact for next year?
If Evans was to push into the starting lineup it would have to probably come at the expense of either Darren Collison or Bojan Bogdanovic.
Even though Evans makes more money than both of those players, and produces in more ways than Collison and Bogdanovic, his best fit is as the catalyst with the second unit.
The Pacers have made it abundantly clear that they want to spread the floor as best they can around Victor Oladipo.
That means putting elite shooting around their All-Star guard, so when Oladipo is attacking the basket, defenders are hesitant to help off those perimeter weapons.
Collison (the NBA’s top three-point shooter last year) and Bogdanovic (who shot a career-high 40.2 percent last year with the Pacers) fit that description.
The main beneficiary of not having Evans in the starting lineup means he will obviously boost a second unit desperate for playmaking.
Right now, the second unit for Indiana in 2018-19 could look something like this: PG-Cory Joseph, SG-Tyreke Evans, SF-Doug McDermott, PF-T.J. Leaf and C-Domantas Sabonis.
While Joseph brings a lot of needed intangibles to the Pacers, he’s not a high-level ‘break you down off the dribble’ type of point guard.
McDermott and Leaf are strictly catch and shoot guys.
Their shooting strengths should be accentuated with Evans having the ball in his hands and penetrating. Remember, Evans averaged more than 5 assists a game last season, despite playing around 30 minutes per game.
Indiana’s bench needed a player like Evans to keep that unit going in late-clock situations when things bog down offensively.
Over the course of an 82-game season, there will definitely be games when the Pacers have Evans play with the starters, or even close out games.
Evans should be welcomed as a player who can take some on-ball scoring pressure off of Victor Oladipo, which is something the Pacers did not have enough of in their 7-game series loss to the Cavaliers.
In Evans’ 9-year NBA career, he’s been mostly a starter, before mainly coming off the bench the past two seasons.
Playing in a contract year, at the age of 28, Evans walks into a situation with the Pacers where he can have the sort of production that could merit 6th Man of the Year chatter.
If that happens, a big pay day is coming Evans’ way and the Pacers could be a team pushing deep into the Eastern Conference playoffs.