Philadelphia 76ers: Should Tyreke Evans still be on the team’s radar?

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

After failing to make a deal at the 2018 NBA trade deadline, should the Philadelphia 76ers go after Chester-native Tyreke Evans with free agency looming?

What were the two biggest weaknesses of the Philadelphia 76ers in their doomed playoff series against the Boston Celtics?

Though we all may have our own answer to this question, as the team’s play was truly subpar, to me at least, the answer has to be a lack of backcourt defensive flexibility and a lack of secondary ball-handling outside of the team’s two point guards, Ben Simmons and T.J. McConnell. With no true answer for the Celtics’ terrible twosome of Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier, until the series was all but over, the team was essentially defeated by a pair of average at best guards who averaged a paltry 21.5 points combined over the regular season.

But what if the team could answer both of these questions with a single player they’ve already shown some serious interest in this year when free agency opens on July 1st?

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While the Sixers ultimately came up short at the trade deadline back in February, the team tried feverishly to acquire versatile guard/forward Tyreke Evans from the Memphis Grizzlies, but unfortunately, the team was unwilling to budge from their lofty first-round pick price tag for his services.

Evans, the 2011 Rookie of the Year, is a native of Chester, Pa, and while he’s struggled to remain healthy over his eight-year NBA career, he’s proven to be a veritable front court chess piece in the starting lineups of four different squads.

At 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, Evans has the size, speed and athleticism to change off on the defensive side of the ball 1-3, while also possessing the ball-handling ability, passer vision, and almost 40 percent 3-point shooting percentage in 2017-2018 to both create his own shot and gouge opposing defenders with a well-placed dime.

No wonder Philly was interested in bringing the American Christian Academy grad back home for their eventual playoff run.

Closing out the 2017-2018 NBA season with the third highest Real Plus-Minus of any shooting guard in the league according to ESPN, Evans quietly delivered the best season of his career while trapped on an abysmally bad Grizzlies squad, both shining as the team’s primary ball handler or as an auxiliary piece alongside oft-injured point Mike Conley Jr.

Now some will be quick to call Evans fool’s gold, a player who’s never truly lived up to being the fourth overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, or worse, a flat out bust, but that’s simply not the case. Over his almost decade-long tenure in the league, Evans has adjusted quite nicely to a number of different schemes. While he’s never quite developed into the bonified star that many assumed he would when he entered the league, and promptly won Rookie of the Year, he’s quietly turned into one of the better complementary players in the league.

When paired with a solid, pass-first point guard like Conley, Evans has proven himself an incredibly formidable scoring option, with the ability to attack the basket from all three levels, while also possessing the wherewithal to kick the ball out to an open shooter if a better option presents itself.

A scary combo.

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With Simmons’ current inability to score outside of the paint, and the Sixers’ woeful outside shooting rearing its ugly head at the most inopportune time in the team’s playoff series against the Celtics, could you imagine how much better the team would have performed with a player like Evans serving as a change of pace ball handler, paired with either McConnell or Simmons, or running the show solo?

No? Well, you may see it soon enough.

Now set to become an unrestricted free agent for the second consecutive offseason, Evans will once again be able to pick where he plays going into 2018, and after putting together the best season of his career in Memphis, it’s safe to say he’ll be in-line for a nice pay bump moving forward.

While I highly doubt any team will offer the 28-year-old do-it-all guard anywhere close to a max contract, as up to this point he’s never played on a contract worth more than $12 million a year, he could very well be in play for a team looking for a capable veteran with extensive starting experience, and the ability to play multiple positions at either end of the court.

A team like the Philadelphia 76ers.

Because of Simmons’ truly unique skill set, Brett Brown has had to craft an…unconvential scheme to highlight his point guards strengths, while also masking his weaknesses. From allowing a 6-foot-10 player walk the ball up the court, to having his wing players cover a position down on almost every defensive drive, the 76ers need players who are versatile and flexible for their scheme to work.

That’s a role Evans could excel in if he’s willing to buy into Brown’s scheme.

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While he’s far from a one size fits all player who could excel in any scheme, like, say, Kevin Durant, Tyreke Evans has proven that when placed in a scheme that highlights his unique skill set, he can not only be a more than adequate point forward, but one with the ability to average almost 20 points a night while playing multiple positions. And now, as an unrestricted free agent, Evans would be an amazing addition to the Philadelphia 76ers scheme moving forward, especially if he’s willing to play on a short-term, hometown discounted contract worth right around $10 million a year.