NBA Daily: What if Memphis Had Traded Tyreke Evans?
Tyreke Evans’ comeback was one of the greatest stories that led to nothing, which can only make one wonder what could have been.
Three things to note about Tyreke Evans this season.
First, his production in Memphis made for one of the under-the-radar feel-good stories in the NBA this season. Evans, who had won Rookie of the Year in 2009, had seen his numbers slowly dwindle since winning the award leading up to this season, but Evans resurrected himself as a Grizzly, as he put up some of the best numbers he’s had since his rookie year, which should make for plenty of suitors this summer.
Second, his play this year made him one of the best bargain contracts in the NBA. Evans averaged 19.4 points, 5.2 assists and 5.1 rebounds while shooting 45 percent from the field, including 39 percent from three – a substantial improvement compared to his career average – while being paid $3 million. It’s safe to say he was quite the savvy investment for the Grizz.
Third, his comeback season was unfortunately wasted, as Memphis went absolutely nowhere this season. The Grizzlies were among teams that were bitten the worst by the injury bug, as Mike Conley, JaMychal Green and even Evans himself missed a good chunk of the season. The Grizzlies ended the season with just 22 wins, which made Evans’ efforts futile.
One could argue that Evans’ impressive numbers fit into the “Good stats/Bad team” category, but nevertheless, Reke at the very least put himself back on the map. So much so in fact that one can’t help but wonder, what if Evans had changed teams mid-season?
The opportunity was certainly there. On Feb. 6, Adrian Wojnarowski reported that four teams were interested in Evans – including Boston, Philadelphia, Denver and Miami. After the deadline passed, Zach Lowe reported that Washington was also in the running for Evans.
No deal came to fruition because both sides had good reason not to pull the trigger. Memphis wasn’t going to trade Evans for the chump change that was universally offered for him, and none of his suitors were going to give up anything of value for a mid-season rental, so Evans remained a Grizzly.
As anticlimactic as it was, one can’t help but wonder how things could have turned out had either Memphis or one of Evans’ suitors relented. Denver and Miami pulled out of the race when they settled for cheaper options with Devin Harris and Dwyane Wade respectively, but that still leaves Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington. Had Evans gone to one of those three teams, the Eastern Conference playoff race could have been drastically altered.
Of course, this is all hypothetical, but Evans alone could have swiftly changed a lot in the playoffs by himself. The following below details how these teams could have had their fortunes changed if they had acquired Reke.
Why they needed Evans: Scoring
Leading up to the deadline, the Celtics could have used but were not desperate for a guy like Evans. Even with Gordon Hayward out for the season, the Celtics were one of the best teams in the conference with all the tools for a lengthy playoff run. One month after the deadline, everything suddenly came crashing down more than they already had. In a two-game span, Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis went out either for an extended period or for the rest of the season. Had all that happened earlier, perhaps Boston would have obliged to Memphis’ demands.
Evans would not have filled the void that Irving and Hayward left, but with what the Celtics were left with after their injuries, his skills would have come in handy. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier all did what they could in the playoffs, but relying on youngsters with little experience is playing with fire no matter how talented they are. While the three of them did spectacularly, it was hard for the Celtics’ offense to thrive when they weren’t hitting their shots.
This was definitely the case against the Cavaliers. When those three couldn’t get their offense going, the team stagnated. Game 7, in particular, was one where Evans could have been useful, given that outside of Tatum and Al Horford, no one on the Celtics’ side could get a bucket, which led to their playoff exit. There’s no guarantee that Evans would have pushed them past the Cavs, but having another scoring option would have given the Celtics another facet in their offense that they badly missed.
Why they needed Evans: Versatility
There were many reasons why the Sixers lost to the Celtics in five games just a few weeks back. The Sixers lacked a reliable scorer besides Joel Embiid, their inexperience made them vulnerable against a team that took pleasure in exploiting slip-ups, but arguably the biggest reason why they lost was that their guys were too one-dimensional.
Embiid is already one of the league’s best centers, but the center position is all he can play. Ben Simmons is one of the league’s most unique young stars even as a rookie, but his lack of shooting ability makes him a point forward and not much else. J.J. Redick, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova are all passable to elite shooters, but they can all be taken advantage of on defense. The Celtics wasted no time abusing the Sixers’ lack of versatility.
Evans is a 6-foot-6 point guard who can play three positions and provides match-up problems on both sides of the floor. This season, Evans had the best overall net rating on the Grizzlies, as they were 11.5 points per 100 possessions better with Evans on the floor. Though Evans is renowned for what he does on the offensive end, Evans proved to be a plus on the defensive end as well, as the Grizzlies allowed 4.7 fewer points per 100 possessions with Evans on the floor.
Evans isn’t a shut-down defender by any means, but he could have held his own better than Redick or Belinelli, who were both bullied relentlessly by the Celtics. Tyreke is also not the shooter that Reddick or Belinelli is, but he proved to be efficient from three-point land this season, and he could have provided another playmaker in the unit with his passing ability.
Many believed that the Sixers had more talent than the Celtics did (without their two stars), and there’s a fair argument that they did. That series was much tighter than the 4-1 result would suggest. The one thing they needed was a glue guy who could have given them more lineup possibilities. Having Evans aboard could have pushed them past Boston, and quite possibly, Cleveland as well.
Why they needed Evans: Depth
The Wizards have been one of the NBA’s most prominent wild cards since their surprise playoff run in 2014. In the last four years, they have been all over the map. In that span, they’ve gone from one win from the conference finals (twice) to missing the playoffs to being an eighth-seeded team who no one can really get a read on.
Though they were definitely better last season, the Wizards have one of the NBA’s top starting fives. The one constant flaw that they’ve had over the years is their bench. A lot went wrong for the Wizards this season, but one positive was that the bench showed improvement. Kelly Oubre Jr. developed more consistency while Mike Scott proved to be a bargain contract and Tomas Satoransky worked his way into being a productive rotation player when the team dealt with injuries. Their second unit wasn’t great, but still much better than the one they had last year.
That being said, their biggest issue was that they didn’t really have a reliable scorer in the second unit. Oubre Jr, Scott and Satoransky are all useful players, but none of them are exactly scoring threats. Evans could have been the first reliable scorer the Wizards have had outside of John Wall and Bradley Beal since Paul Pierce. That could have propelled the Wizards higher than the eighth seed in the East, which could have propelled them even further in the playoffs if things broke their way.
Keep in mind, the Wizards were a healthy Otto Porter from making things interesting against Toronto, so one can only wonder what their team could have been with both Porter and Evans playing.
Evans’ play only makes the mind wonder how much different things could have been had his efforts not been put to waste. From Brian Williams to P.J. Brown to Chris Andersen, a mid-season acquisition can make all the difference in a playoff run. Evans could have been one of them, but that ship has sailed.
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