Tyreke Evans is the Pacers’ playoff x-factor

Tyreke Evans could be a huge factor in the Indiana Pacers series versus the Boston Celtics.

In case you haven’t been paying attention to the Indiana Pacers this season, Tyreke Evans has been largely bad. I don’t have the need to replace ‘bad’ with a flowery adjective, as there is not an adjective powerful enough to describe the level of Evans’ suckage this season.

After posting the highest scoring figure since his rookie year last season in Memphis, some regression was expected. However, Evans regressing to one of the worst offensive players in the NBA was far from expected.

I don’t think you’ll have much trouble guessing one of these three players:

Sometimes, a picture really does speak 1,000 words:

Evans is posting career worsts in true shooting percentage (48.1), free throw rate (22.9), and field goal percentage (38.9) and has the second lowest two-point percentage of his career (40.9). Plain and simple, Tyreke Evans cannot finish plays for the life of him. He’s actually shooting the ball at a fine rate from three, stroking from deep at an even 35%. The three-point accuracy is nice, but a player who is asked to create off the dribble often should not be one of the least efficient players in the NBA inside the arc.

Yet, there are rare, ephemeral moments when Evans escapes this everpresent sludge and looks like an actual NBA player: one that is incredibly valuable to Indiana, at that, a team that lacks a true creator without Victor Oladipo. These outings prove that Evans can provide positive value for the Pacers and offers some hope that he could flip a switch in the playoffs.

In order for the Indiana Pacers to have any chance against the Celtics, that’s exactly what needs to happen: Evans needs to have an extended stretch of good games, something which he hasn’t achieved much this season. He’s only scored in double digits for five straight games twice.

Evans’ most valuable skill on offense, regardless of his shot falling or not, is his ability to get into the paint while handling the ball. At the rim, he shoots 4.38 times per game, and he drives to the hole 6.3 times per game despite ranking eighth on the Pacers in minutes per game.

While he does not have any overwhelming athleticism, Evans slithers into the paint with a skill that makes him one of the best rim attackers in the league. He manipulates the pick and roll like a puppeteer, euro stepping into the lane and finishing over the outstretched Al Horford with the off-foot floater:

Evans subjects Aron Baynes to the torture chamber, stringing together crossover moves and head fakes before gliding into the layup:

Gorgeous drives like these, though, are the exception. Not the rule. The Tyreke Evans experience goes similarly to how most of my dates do. Initially, things go well, then we get to her house after dinner and she waves goodbye and I go home. The swift cross-into-euro through two defenders is sublime; the wide-open missed layup (or missed read to Myles Turner in the dunker spot, whatever floats your boat) is not:

Tyreke Evans has a bad habit of taking contested long mid-range shots, the kind that makes everyone’s blood boil. From mid-range, he’s shooting a paltry 33.3%. The world is Evans’ oyster after he locks Gordon Hayward in jail, but he settles for a long, contested stepback mid-range shot which doesn’t even hit the rim:

In this sense, Evans operates similar to a far less athletic Russell Westbrook who can’t finish or pass, in the way he puts pressure on the defense with this drives. But unlike Westbrook, Evans doesn’t have any semblance of finishing ability and his passing isn’t advanced enough to keep the defense guessing.

Speaking of his passing, it’s a mixed bag. More “initially good play turned bad” here, as Evans misses a wide open Myles Turner spotting up on the wing:

Even if this next pass wasn’t incredibly lazy and off target, skip passes anywhere in the vicinity of Marcus Smart aren’t the best idea. If Evans wants to make a pass here, the pocket pass window to Domantas Sabonis is there almost immediately after he begins his drive to the basket:

Again, Evans thinks his name is David, driving into the entire Celtics’ Goliath of a defense, instead of kicking to a wide-open Doug McDermott in the corner, who happens to be shooting 48.1% from three on the road:

However, his passing is not all bad. Out of pick and rolls and dribble handoffs, Evans has nice chemistry with Sabonis, here firing the pocket pass for a wide open layup.

This skip pass couldn’t be timed any better, with Evans whizzing the pass to TJ Leaf at the very moment when Marcus Morris sinks too deep into the paint:

While he isn’t great at making complicated reads on the move, Evans is fantastic making the simple plays, like this quick dump off pass to Turner:

Boston’s defense is stingy, posting the sixth-best defensive rating in the NBA. They’re going to focus all of their resources to stop Bojan Bogdanovic and Domantas Sabonis, forcing other Indiana Pacers to step up and create offense.

The man in question is, unquestionably, Tyreke Jamir Evans. As we’ve seen, he has real offensive creation potential deep inside. Whether he can unleash it or not could swing the series in Indiana’s favor.