Rookie Retrospective: Tyreke Evans

Rookie Retrospective: Tyreke Evans
Mar 05, 2010, 05:50 pm
We continue our coverage of the 2010 NBA campaign by reviewing Tyreke Evans’ development into one of the top young talents in the NBA. Though Brandon Jennings was pegged as the early leader for the Rookie of the Year Award, Evans has emerged as the run-away favorite thanks to the tremendous season he’s having in Sacramento.

Rookie Retrospective: Tyreke Evans

Tyreke Evans, 6’6 220, 1989, Sacramento Kings
20.5 Points, 5 Assists, 4.7 Rebounds, 2.8 Turnovers, 1.5 Steals, 46.2% FG, 26.7% 3FG, 79.3% FT

Part One: Potential Impact and Transition


“There are a couple of crucial judgments which will be made individually by each and every NBA team that will play a huge role in where Evans' draft stock ultimately lies. The first would be his likely position at the next level, point guard or shooting guard. The second would be whether he projects as a starter or backup at that position. The third would be whether he fits into what that team already possesses in terms of ball-handlers and outside shooters, as Evans clearly won't fit into every system. It would be very difficult to play him alongside another guard who is also not much of a threat from beyond the arc, as that would make things very easy on the defense. With the right teammates, though, and in a sparkplug/instant offense role, Evans could be very effective.”
-NCAA Weekly Performers 2/19/2009


Roughly a year ago, we saw Evans as a player who possessed a great deal of potential as a multi-talent guard, but also as one who would need to land in the right situation to be successful. Some would say that we grossly underrated the talent he showed, which is a probably a fair assessment to make.

Showing considerable improvement during his single season at Memphis, Evans’ inefficient scoring, inability to make perimeter shots and turnover problems regardless left us with questions about where he would fit in with the team that drafted him and what it would take for that franchise to accommodate his learning curve.

When the Kings selected Evans with the 4th selection in the 2009 draft, their roster seemed to possess many of the qualities needed to foster his short-term and long-term success. A rebuilding franchise desperate for a major building block, Sacramento brought Evans on board to play heavy minutes and complement de-facto franchise player Kevin Martin, who despite recent injury problems, has been one of the most efficient scoring threats in the NBA for the past few years.

Lacking a dynamic, ball-dominant perimeter threat or a post-player that would demand consistent touches, Evans stepped into a situation where he would have free reign to utilize his physical tools and shot creating ability to score first and distribute second, much like he did under John Calipari. Similar to Brandon Jennings in Milwaukee, Tyreke Evans couldn’t have landed in a better situation to both nurture his style of play and make an immediate splash.

With Kevin Martin missing the lion-share of the season and subsequently getting dealt to the Houston Rockets, Evans has functioned as the first-option for the 16-33 Kings. Though he hasn’t been able to lead his team to many wins, and wasn’t quite the fit next to Martin that Sacramento probably hoped he would be, Evans has been Head Coach Paul Westphal’s most productive contributor all season long. His scoring efficiency is right on par with where it was during his college days, and he’s improved as a playmaker since the season began.

Based on the questions that we had about where Evans would fit in for whatever team drafted him, it is safe to say that he’s exceeded expectations and then some. He’s translated his game to the NBA seamlessly. Though he may not be having quite as tremendous an individual season on a more competitive team, there is no doubt that Evans has displayed the tools necessary to become an outstanding pro for years to come. Already enjoying superstar status in Sacramento, it will be interesting to see how this success affects his development in coming season.

Part Two: Shot Creating Ability


“It's pretty obvious what Evans offers as a prospect, as he's one of the premier shot-creators in the country, despite being only 19 years old. His combination of strength, aggressiveness and scoring instincts is almost unparalleled at this level, and should translate to the NBA level effectively when you consider his terrific footwork, body control, and hesitation moves. He does an excellent job pushing the ball up the floor in transition, can create (and finish) with either hand almost equally as well, and is an absolute bulldozer slashing his way through the paint and creating contact at the rim. While not an incredible leaper, Evans knows how to get to the free throw line, which helps minimize the fact that he's not an incredible finisher percentage wise (just 50%).”
-NCAA Weekly Performers 2/19/2009


In analyzing Evans last season, we saw a player who had a very clearly defined value proposition at the NBA level. We fully expected Evans to enjoy a great deal of success creating shots against better competition, but he’s been even more effective than advertised. Not only has Evans proven time and time again that he can get to the rim against just about anyone with his blend of scoring instincts and physical tools, he’s become even more proficient at exploiting the opportunities that he creates.

According to Synergy Sports Technology, 34% of Evans’ offensive possessions this season have come in one-on-one situations –the fourth largest percentage league-wide. Last season at Memphis, Evans finished a meager 27.8% of his isolation plays, a far cry from the 41.3% he’s shooting on such attempt this season. Evans certainly has benefitted from NBA’s improved spacing and tightly scrutinized hand-checking rules, as his hesitation moves, ability to explode through driving lanes, and imposing size and strength for a guard make him even more difficult to keep away from the lane and off the line than he was during his time in Memphis.

In addition to translating many of the things he was already good at to the NBA level, Evans has also made some subtle progress in his approach to creating his own shot. In his college days, he was prone to simply making a move and attacking immediately, and while that was consistent with what John Calipari wanted out of his dribble-drive offense, it didn’t afford Evans the opportunity to be terribly selective given his aggressive nature.

A few months into his rookie year, Evans has started to show the patience and timing that is common amongst great one-on-one scorers. Poised enough to wait for traffic to clear out of the lane and seeming more willing to wait for the right opportunity instead of taking the first shot offered to him, Evans’ outstanding shiftiness with the ball and body control at the rim have made him one of the game’s most formidable young scorers. As he begins to get more comfortable in his own skin and carves out a more clearly defined niche, Evans’ progress this season should become more pronounced as Sacramento rebuilds.

Part Three: Perimeter Scoring


“On the offensive end, Evans has spent many possessions over-dribbling the ball, as is his mantra. In isolation situations, he's extremely prone to settle rather than challenging his man, often choosing to pull up for contested, fadeaway jumpers that have gone in very sporadically thus far this season, as evidenced by his poor three-point shooting percentage. Evans' form is very reminiscent of Lebron James', with the constant fadeaway motion, however Evans doesn't have the consistent mechanics of James, not always holding his follow through and often just looking very sloppy in his mechanics. He's a very talented shooter, something we've seen firsthand in the past, but the results haven't come at the collegiate level yet, and his shot selection certainly has something to do with that.”
-Evaluating the NCAA Freshman Class 12/24/2008

“With his poor shooting mechanics (he fades away unnecessarily on every attempt) Evans is very streaky with his feet set in catch and shoot situations, and downright dreadful shooting the ball off the dribble. He only converts a dismal 25% of his jump-shots according to Synergy Sports Technology, but the problem is that he settles for them on a regular basis—they make up about 40% of his possessions, often with a hand in his face and early in the shot clock no less. While his skill-set may develop in time, Evans' mentality looks extremely questionable—it's hard not to come away with the impression that he's a pretty selfish player. He's likely going to have to revamp his shooting stroke entirely if he's to ever become even a decent threat from the NBA 3-point line, something he's been unwilling to do up until this point.”
-NCAA Weekly Performers 2/19/2009


Evans’ biggest weakness remains his perimeter shooting stroke. Fading away naturally on every one of his attempts, the prolific young guard hurts his efficiency every time he settles for a deep jumper. While it would be easy to write off Evans’ poor shooting mechanics because of how productive he’s proven to be in spite of them as rookie, one has to wonder just how good Evans could be if he revamped his shooting form to become a legitimate catch and shoot threat.

As it stands, his spot up game is the most problematic byproduct of his poor shooting form. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Evans makes just 18.2% of his unguarded catch and shoot jumpers, yielding just 0.48 points per-possession and ranking him in the 2nd percentile League-wide. While he fares slightly better with a hand in his face, opposing defenses don’t have to respect his range. Evans struggles to draw iron at times, looking confident, but simply lacking the mechanics to get the job done. His long, slow release lacks rhythm, and his willingness to take nearly 2 three-pointers a game despite making just over a quarter of them indicates how poor his shot selection still is. Playing for a team out of the playoff picture this season, Evans has had a long leash that may need to become shorter in time if his team is serious about winning games.

While the news on Evans’ jumper certainly isn’t good, it is not all bad either. He’s actually improved his shooting off the dribble. Last time we checked in on Evans, he was making a dismal 25% of his pull up jumpers at the NCAA level. He’s made 31.5% of such attempts as an NBA rookie, showing a degree of natural shot making ability that allows him to overcome his poor mechanics on occasion. Despite that improvement, Evans’ perimeter shot still needs a major overhaul, as his upside would be completely different if he was a threat to hit shots from beyond the arc.

As it stands, opposing teams have no qualms whatsoever about going underneath screens on every pick and roll play Evans is involved in, which puts his team at a major disadvantage. This issue would be magnified significantly if the Kings were a more competitive team that necessitated opponents executing higher-level advance scouting and game-planning in order to defeat them—for example in a playoff series. His development in this area will also have implications on his ability to function next to another talented ball-handling guard in Sacramento’s back-court.

Part Four: Playmaking and Position


“As one of Memphis' primary ball-handlers, Evans has shown some prowess as a shot creator, though not what one would call a point guard just yet. With excellent vision and skills, Evans makes some outstanding plays with the ball, finding his man on the pick-and-roll and in transition, but he's very much a shoot-first player, and his decision-making is nowhere near where his court vision is, as evidenced by his 3.8 turnovers per game, second amongst all freshmen thus far. His ball-handling skills have looked a bit shaky at times, something we’ll have to take a closer look at as the season moves on.”
-Evaluating the NCAA Freshman Class 12/24/2008

“As a point guard, Evans has been mostly a mixed bag. On one hand, he obviously possesses excellent basketball instincts and has a great sense for making plays for himself and others. Memphis is running a lot more pick and roll than they did last season, and Evans shows great potential in this area. The problem is that he's an incredibly ball-dominant point guard, often looking like a fish out of water when he's forced to give up the rock for more than a few seconds. Memphis' offense often looks quite stagnant, with Evans over-dribbling the ball at the top of the key as his four teammates stand around and twiddle their thumbs. He can be pretty sloppy with the ball at times, displaying questionable decision-making skills and incredibly poor shot-selection, which wouldn't be as much of an issue if he was able to make shots at a respectable rate from the perimeter.”
-NCAA Weekly Performers 2/19/2009


Much of what we saw out of Evans in the NCAA has remained consistent through his first season in the NBA. He’s turnover prone, lacks ideal decision-making, but is simply too dynamic off the dribble not to create looks for his teammates. Though many of the qualitative aspects of our evaluation remain true, they simply haven’t mattered nearly as much as we thought they would. At the same time, Evans has improved his efficiency considerably, which has made this much less of an issue. After posting an assist to turnover ratio of just 1.08 last season, Evans’ questionable decision making off the dribble led many to question what position he should play at the next level.

At this point, Evans’ position is largely irrelevant –the Kings aren’t fighting for a spot in the playoffs and may not be for some time. He’s improved his assist to turnover ratio to 1.86 –an impressive development from last season, but still not ideal. As it stands, Evans’ playmaking ability resembles that of two guards like Dwyane Wade more than it does Tony Parker-like players due to the manner in which he creates looks for others.

Evans does not do most of his playmaking in the framework of Sacramento’s offense. While he’s able to thread passes to cutters on occasion thanks to his size, he doesn’t orchestrate sets to create open looks for his teammates. Rather, his ability to create his own shot and subsequently draw additional defenders creates the vast majority of his assist opportunities, whether they come on drive and kicks in half court sets or on dump-off passes in transition. Evans is capable of hitting the open man, but is looking to score first and pass second. The sheer amount of time that the ball is in his hands and the number of occasions he takes the ball to the rim guarantees him a degree of success as a playmaker, and to his credit, he’s done a better job recognizing when to give the ball up as the season has gone on. That’s not necessarily a knock against Evans—that’s just the way today’s NBA works.

As Sacramento begins to build a competitive roster, they’ll need to accommodate the fact that Evans requires a lot of touches. As the anointed superstar of a struggling franchise desperate for a savior, he’s been able to get away with many things that other players wouldn’t be able to. The fact that he ranks amongst the top 20 players in the NBA in both turnovers and assists speaks to his natural ability to put pressure on the defense and find the open man as well as his occasional carelessness with the ball.

With personnel shifting around him in coming seasons, Evans will no doubt have to make some adjustments to his game to help the Kings become more competitive. Whether that means developing more discipline and a better grasp of the offense to run the point more efficiently like Russell Westbrook has in Oklahoma City, or focusing on scoring and cutting back on his turnovers remains to be seen. Either way, is only 20 years old, so time is clearly on his side.

Part Five: Defense


“On the defensive end, Evans is an outstanding weapon, pulling in 2.5 steals per game, but he does much of it at the expense of individual defense. Possessing solid athleticism, Evans flies all over the court on this end, at times over-pursuing and at times making plays that lead to the easiest of transition baskets. In man-to-man defense, he shows strong lateral quickness but a very inconsistent stance, gambling frequently and often giving up positioning. Despite this, he is usually able to recover when he tries against his competition, just because his change-of-direction abilities and lateral quickness are so good.”
-Evaluating the NCAA Freshman Class 12/24/2008

“Defensively, Evans has gotten better as the season has moved on, particularly on the ball. His terrific wingspan helps him tremendously in terms of contesting shots on the perimeter, and his excellent knack for getting in the passing lanes makes him a true nuisance with the way Memphis likes to press. Evans loses his focus from time to time in the half-court and tends to get out of his stance, also not doing a great job fighting through ball-screens. His potential on this end is impressive, though, and it wouldn't be shocking to see him be able to defend both guard positions in the NBA when it's all said and done.”
-NCAA Weekly Performers 2/19/2009


The inconsistency we saw out of Evans during his single collegiate season still characterizes his NBA game on the defensive end pretty accurately. Evans does a solid job in certain scenarios, but still gambles unnecessarily, puts himself out of position, and doesn’t always appear as intense as he could be. His length and quickness allow him to come up with a respectable 1.5 steals per-game, but many of them come at the expense of team defensive principles and are the result of bad habits.

One of the more problematic tendencies Evans has is the way he gives up on plays to reach. Evans shows a lackadaisical stance when closing out shooters, and when they take him off the dribble, he prefers to try to reach around and use his length to poke the ball away from behind over attempting to get back in the play. At times, it almost seems as though he tries to set his man up to take that risk, putting extra pressure on his teammates to rotate over and deny his man’s penetration. That might be OK if he had Dwight Howard or Marcus Camby behind him, but unfortunately for Evans he has Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson instead.

Evans certainly has some work to do on his fundamentals when closing out, and his defense off the ball is equally as problematic. He tends to stare down the ball, losing his man entirely on the weakside and sitting in the key, which helps his rebounding numbers to an extent, but is something he’ll need to be better about in the future.

Considered the star of his team, and only a rookie at that, Evans gets the benefit of the doubt on most occasions, but he’ll need to maintain his motivation and make the subtle improvements that will help take his game to the next level.

Evans’ flashes of brilliance defensively speak to what he could become if he were to hone his craft. In isolation situations, Evans’ devastating combination of size, length and strength allows him to be effective when contesting shots even when he isn’t showing great intensity, but he also shows the ability to stifle his man and fight through screens with ease when he takes things personally. Highly inconsistent with his energy level, Evans has the lateral quickness and size to not just defend but actually shut down either guard position, but takes possessions off too frequently to exploit his defensive tools regularly.


Looking at what Evans has accomplished this season based on where we saw him last spring, he likely qualifies as the most pleasant surprise of this year’s rookie class. He showed immense upside as a prospect, but his 20, 5, and 5 averages place him amongst the most prolific rookie guards we’ve seen in years, regardless of team situation. Considering the glaring holes that remain in Evans’ game, it isn’t inconceivable to think that he can get substantially better if he takes it upon himself to improve on his weaknesses, which is a pretty scary thought. Already considered something of a franchise player, Evans will need to see through his instant success and accolades to realize how much better he can still become.

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