Chasing Down The Latest NBA News
The Sacramento Kings have had a very rough year. The season started out on bad terms as Paul Westphal and DeMarcus Cousins were at each others necks once again. The Kings’ big wigs ultimately sided with Cousins and fired Westphal after it was fairly clear that Sacramento would be lottery bound once again. That was Sacramento’s last on-court issue for a while, as the focus shifted to whether or not there would be in more on-court issues in Sacramento. There were hopeful moments – we all remember when the Maloofs took in a standing ovation with Mayor Kevin Johnson after it appeared as if a new arena was imminent, which, in retrospect, seems like an absolute farce – but after the talks fall apart because of the Maloofs’ greediness, it looks like the Sacramento Kings will soon play their home games in a different city.
Now that there are just two games left in the season and the off-the-court issues have been resolved, at least to an extent, it’s time for the Kings to start looking towards their on the court future and determine what kind of team they want to be. In my view, there’s simply no way this team can move forward without acknowledging DeMarcus Cousins as their best player and attempting to build around what he can bring to a team when working from the post. In a way, he can be very Chris Webber-like in his initiation of the offense from the high post and his scoring ability could shine through right away if the team committed to him as the main operator of the offense rather than allowing the dribble fest their offense has been reduced to many a time this year. Once he is given the proverbial keys to the offense, I think this team can start to see some real improvement.
The problem with that: It would render Tyreke Evans almost completely useless.
Hit the jump for the rest of Mark’s piece…
Evans is a very ball dominant player that likes to pound the air out of the basketball and attack the basket but his tendency to relegate the offense to an ISO fest is very detrimental ot the team and his usage has seen a bit of a decrease this season. Recently, Evans’ agent Arn Tellem addressed Evans’ role with the team. According to Sam Amick, “Evans says he’s frustrated with how marginalized he’s become” and “Evans’ reps are encouraging him to be more vocal about his perspective going forward.” Amick also notes that the team has had no extension talks with Evans, who is up for a new deal this summer.
It feels weird to say this but I feel like the Kings are handling this situation the right way.
As fans we tend to overhype a product based on the various physical tools they possess. Tyreke Evans is a perfect example of such overreaction. Most observers will watch Evans and conclude that he is a pretty good offensive player because of his ability to get the basket and score in traffic at the rim. In that sense, Evans is one of the best in the league, but when you start taking into account the other aspects of his offensive game it’s harder to rationally determine that Evans is an above average offensive player. Throw-in some less than spirited defense and you have a pretty flawed product.
Here are the three biggest flaws in Evans’ game.
1) Evans is one of the worst shooters in basketball.
Evans came into the league without a good reputation as a shooter and he’s yet to make a single stride forward in the first three years of his career. Shot selection with Evans is definitely an issue but even on clean catch spot-up shots Evans is putrid. According to HoopData, Evans is shooting the ball 3.1 times per game from 16-23 feet and is converting them at a 28% rate. From 3-9 feet, Evans is shooting 25.6%. From 10-15 feet, Evans is shooting 24%. From three point land, Evans is shooting 21.3%. Here is a visualization of those numbers courtesy of NBA.com/Stats.
That looks like a field is on fire and that the right corner three is the last thing yet to be engulfed by the flames. Virtually the only spot on the floor that Evans is efficient from is the rim, so it’s good that he gets there seven times per game. Outside of that, you can see that Evans pretty much no success offensively when he isn’t attacking the rim. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Evans is shooting just 37% on isolation plays, 35% as the ball-handler in the pick and roll and 32% on spot-up shots. Of players with at least 200 jump shots, Evans ranks dead last (150th out of 150 players) in shooting percentage at 25.2%. Evans has also missed 40 of his 49 attempts classified as “runners.”
As someone that can attack the rim off the bounce, Evans is a very good player, but as someone asked to do the majority of the ball-handling while he is on the floor, Evans is limited, especially when defenses lay off of him and force him to shoot in a Rajon Rondo-sort of way. As Rondo has proven, players without jumpshots can still succeed offensively but that leads to…
2) Evans is not a natural passer.
Evans was miscast as a point guard at Memphis and it didn’t take long before it became painfully obvious that he wouldn’t be able to play the position at the NBA level. In his third season, Evans has a career low assist rate and is averaging just five assists per 40 minutes of play. His assist rate of 19.5% ranks 58th of 66 point guards (Jimmer is #66), which is what Hollinger’s stats still classify him as. Even though he isn’t a true point, that number puts his deficiencies as a passer into perspective. Evans has played a lot more at the two this season than usual but he’s still played 21% of Sacramento’s available minutes at the point guard spot this year, which is too many.
3) Evans is not a good defender.
When guarding point guards Evans should have a ton of success because he is much bigger and longer than your standard lead guard. That said, the only area of defenses in which he succeeds is in isolations. His defensive fundamentals when he isn’t playing the one-on-one game need some serious improvement. Per Synergy, he ranks in the bottom 50% percentile of the league when guarding spot-ups, pick-and-roll ball handlers, off screen plays, post-ups and hand offs. According to Basketball Value, the Kings give up 106.80 points per 100 possessions when Evans is off the floor. When Evans is on the floor the Kings give up 110.48 points per 100 possessions, a negative difference of 3.68 points per 100 possessions.
When you start to look everything Evans brings to the table, you realize that he is a pretty mediocre basketball player. He has an elite skill but is lacking in pretty much every area, with his outside shooting producing the worst numbers in the entire NBA. The Kings need to realize that they would be much better off building their team around DeMarcus Cousins going forward rather than tying up the cap sheet with a lucrative long-term deal for Evans. Sacramento may have missed on their lottery pick this year but they did find themselves a player that looks like a keeper at the point guard spot with the last pick in the draft in Isaiah Thomas. With Marcus Thornton already locked up on what I think was a mutually friendly extension and Thomas portraying himself as a more than capable NBA point guard in his rookie campaign, the Kings have to commit to a core of Thomas, Thornton and Cousins and start building around it starting this summer.
Evans will not be a free agent after this season but that works in favor of the Kings. He has two relatively cheap years left on his rookie deal which makes him an attractive trade target for any team that wants to take a chance on him. With one of the most talent loaded drafts in a decade just a couple of months away, Sacramento should capitalize on Evans’ trade value and put the burden of working his awkward game into a team concept on another team. If you can get another lottery pick and perhaps some cap relief (taking on Fransisco Garcia’s contract, for example) for Evans this off-season, I think the Kings have to do it. It’s always hard letting someone young and talented go – I feel like he could be great in the right situation but Sacramento isn’t that – but his game is not as well-rounded as we were led to belief by his Rookie of the Year campaign and Sacramento will have a very hard time attempting to craft a working offensive system with Evans and Cousins on the roster.