There are two major arguments presented by analysts faulting the Kings selection of Tyreke Evans at No. 4: Ricky Rubio will be better, and Evans will not be a point guard in two years. If you agree with the former ... well, I can't fault you. I felt the same way for 10 months or so. I hold on to that fear, that while Evans will be good Rubio will be great. It's a fair fear, though it's hardly cut and dry. Predicting which will be the better player in five years is a guessing game, in my opinion.
The second argument -- that Evans is a shooting guard -- is something we can look at in a bit more concrete fashion. As just so you know this argument is being made, here's ESPN's John Hollinger: "I love Tyreke Evans as a player but am incredibly dubious about his ability to play the point and suspect he'll be a full-time shooting guard within two years." ESPN's Bill Simmons called the pick "a natural disaster." ESPN's Chad Ford wrote: "Ricky Rubio was a better fit than Evans, who is a not a point guard -- he has a scorer's mentality, and Sacramento already has a star shooting guard in Kevin Martin." In the opinion of ESPN's stats writer, ESPN's star columnist, and ESPN's draft guru, Tyreke Evans is not a point guard.
But what does history tell us?
Friend-of-StR Kevin Pelton -- an NBA writer for the excellent Basketball Prospectus -- set his Pelton Translations of the draft prospects to the similarity score system he uses to project NBA player performance. His columns on the Translations (big men and guards) are great; I highly recommend reading them in full.
Along with the projected stats for each prospect, Pelton lists the top five closest comparisons since 2000. Remember, these comparisons aren't based on subjective judgments, like "he doesn't look like a point guard" or "I think he'll be a full-time shooting guard in two years." These comps are based strictly on stats -- height, weight, two-point FG%, three-point FG% and frequency, FT%, rebounds, assists, minutes, steals, blocks, turnovers, inside shot frequency, usage rate and a WARP (wins above replacement player) or "quality" rating. That's it. Just stats.
Here's the top-five comparison list for Evans.
Javaris Crittenton, already twice-traded, currently a bench player for Washington. He primarily played point guard for the Wizards last season, but more two-guard in Memphis. He didn't play much at all in L.A. Most analysts would call him a point guard right now. Critt has been a disappointment, but he hasn't gotten any sort of real opportunity to prove himself.
- Rudy Gay, a solid small forward for Memphis. Yes, a small forward. A star scorer and ... well, that's about it. Could be an incredible defender with the right coach.
Gilbert Arenas, star point guard of Washington Wizards. Signed a six-year, $100 million contract last summer ... despite a serious knee injury which stole part of the 2006-07 and nearly all of the 2007-08 season. (It subsequently stole the entire 2008-09 season, too.) A three-time All-Star as a point guard. A two-time All-NBA third team honoree as a point guard, a one-time All-NBA second team honoree as a point guard. Finished No. 8 in MVP voting in 2006-07. One of the most dominant offensive players of the era. According to Basketball-Reference's system, has a 54% chance of making the Hall of Fame. (That's obviously a bit overstated, but Gil did accomplish a ton at a young age before the injury.) He has been called a shoot-first point guard, but he's a point guard.
- Russell Westbrook, point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Enough of a point guard for OKC boss Sam Presti (one of the most intelligent GMs in the biz) to pass up Ricky Rubio at No. 3. Westbrook was a dark horse ROY candidate much of last season.
- Joe Johnson, shooting guard in Atlanta. J.J. has vascillated between the point and the two-guard his entire career. He might be back at point next season, depending on Jeff Teague's readiness and Mike Bibby's price tag. Despite his two-guard status, J.J. has averaged at least five assists per game in three of his four seasons with the Hawks.
So there's the precedence: three point guards, one shooting guard who has played a lot of fairly successful point guard, and a small forward. I feel comfortable in Pelton's work, and I feel comfortable in the Kings' dedication to giving Evans a fair chance to become the point guard I think can be. Just because Steve Nash is a circle doesn't mean every team needs a circle. A square will work sometimes too. Make your own damn soufflé!