Why Tyreke Evans and the Kings Have Been More Successful

Already the hyenas invade. I have noticed a sincere uptick in "Tyreke Evans is not a point guard!" talk since Kevin Martin got injured, Beno Udrih got inserted into the starting line-up, and the Kings have gone on a 3-0 string. I actually received a thoughtful email from a reader a few days ago stating that the Kings should trade Martin because "Evans clearly is not a point guard."

The assertion is that Evans's success has come with the switch to off-guard, which hasn't actually happened: Evans is handling the ball as much as he did with Martin on the court, if not more. Paul Westphal has instituted a duty-sharing system which had even Ime Udoka bringing the ball up as a shooting guard -- this is Ime Udoka, whose greatest successes have come as a Battier-like small forward and undersized power forward.

The Kings have been more successful for the last 10 days or so, definitely. But it has less to do with the Evans/Udrih backcourt than it does the addition of Andres Nocioni and Spencer Hawes to the starting line-up.

The starting line-up featuring Sean May and Desmond Mason was bad. According to 82games.com, over 31 minutes the Evans-Martin-Mason-May-Thompson line-up was a -19. Awful. Conversely, over 31 minutes the Evans-Martin-Nocioni-Thompson-Hawes line-up was a +1, which is pretty damn good (considering the age of that unit). Evans is the point guard in both line-ups (which happen to be the two most frequently used line-ups so far this season -- a Martin-less line-up will soon overtake them). The contrast is in the small forward and center, and when you look at the total individual production of Mason and May when compared to Nocioni and Hawes, it's easy to see why the Kings are better off now.

Of course, if success is more attributable to the additions of Nocioni and Hawes than the addition of Udrih, then the Udrih-Evans-Nocioni-Thompson-Hawes line-up will have performed worse than the best Martin line-up, right? Right: the current starting five is a -3 over 30 minutes of play. Evans-Martin has been better than Udrih-Evans, which tells me that a) Kevin Martin is better than Beno Udrih, which is obviously noncontroversial, and b) if Evans is so much more comfortable as a two-guard, the difference is not enough to make up for the fact that Martin is so superior to any non-Evans Kings point guard.

So that's where we are, or rather where we will be come January, when Martin returns. The best Kings backcourt features Evans as a point guard. If you don't believe he can do it, you will likely have January, February, March and April to convince everyone else. In the meantime, I suggest you pay attention to just how much Evans continues to run the offense, and how good he can be in that role.

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