Two years ago, he was a future franchise cornerstone. Before that, he was a potential one-name star. And even before that, he was just a lanky teenager whose potential was leaking out throughout Philadelphia. Dime believed in him. We put him on the cover before he was national news, even before his junior year in high school. When he dominated as a senior, I said, “I told y’all.” When he turned the McDonald’s All-American Game into an exhibition of his talent, more crowded onto the bandwagon. Once he hit freedom (the NBA), he exploded. But now the only question Tyreke Evans must answer is at the center of them all: what kind of basketball player is he?
His support system mapped out MVP awards and All-Star appearances. They saw him as a smaller LeBron James, so the questions surrounding the game should’ve been the first ones answered. Instead, a faulty jumper and an ongoing bout with ODD (obsessive dribbling disorder) threaten to usurp ‘Reke from not only his role in the new age of the NBA, but also his role as new-world royalty with the Sacramento Kings.
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Everyone in Sacramento can see the work ethic. He stays late shooting jumpers. Everyone can see the growth and the maturity. DeMarcus Cousins – albeit not the best source at the moment – told the Sacramento Bee Evans is much more focused this year.
All of the signs point toward a breakout, or in this instance, a rebirth. For his part, Evans told the Sacramento Bee, “People just started looking at film and started trying to keep me from going to the basket. This year, I’m going to have to go to the pull-up (jump shot). I’m still going to go in there, no matter what, but I want to go to the pull-up too.”
Yet we heard this before. And before that. And, I’m pretty sure, before that. After dropping 20/5/5 on the world as a rookie, rendering everyone from an injured Blake Griffin to James Harden and Brandon Jennings completely irrelevant, Evans spent the next two years turning it over more often despite having less chances to dish it off (career-low assist rate last season: 23.81… career-low usage rate: 23.82). He didn’t always take more jumpers. It just felt like it because more often his isolations ended in pull-up 17-footers instead of rim forays.
Shooting isn’t Evans’ only problem. He lost more ballhandling responsibilities last year with the emergence of Isaiah Thomas, and even though he was actually a solid cutter off the ball, the dude makes his money by going one-on-one. Evans also relies entirely too much on an awesome spin move that’s now on the top of every Tyreke Evans scouting report across the league.
But, as The Sacramento Bee points out, all improvement probably starts with that awkward, fadeaway jump shot. Within five feet of the rim last year, Evans hit nearly 61 percent of his shots. Everywhere else? He took nearly as many shots (408 to 492 at the rim) despite shooting 27.7 percent.
Evans is at a crossroads. The only way he improves his shot is to take it. The only way he irons out the kinks in the jumper (a nasty fade, a weird, launch-like release from his shoulder) is to seek out the pull-up shot. But the fate of the Kings no longer completely rests with him. Cousins could be an All-Star as soon as this year. Thomas Robinson looks like a workhorse. Between Thomas and Aaron Brooks, the team has guards who can handle it. How often will Sacramento let Evans test his limits? It’s a tricky balance beam that may have both sides wobbly all season long.
At worst, Evans will stay on his present course. In this new age of advanced statistics and over-analysis, he’s the perfect science project: a well-known name who puts up solid all-around numbers but does so in some of the oddest ways possible, and if you dig deep enough (turnover rates, shot location shooting percentages) can actually seem counter-productive.
At best… well, no need to repeat ourselves. We’ve been saying the same things about Evans for years.
Is a jumper all he needs to become an elite player?
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