FanPost

Debunking the ridiculous myth that Tyreke Evans doesn’t pass

 

So this is going to be my longest post yet.  However, a pet peeve of mine has been coming up a lot over the last couple of months and it’s this ridiculous notion that Tyreke Evans isn’t enough of a passer and our best option is to put another playmaker next to him. 

 

These jabs range in lunacy – from insane ramblings about how we need to trade Evans to gentler assertions that we need Raymond Felton or Andre Miller to come run the show.  The theories are not only incorrect, but would most likely hurt our team..  While Tyreke may have room to grow, people are so focused on the flaws in his passing, they are missing out on what an amazing passer Reke actually is for a 21 year old. 

 

Ok, let’s go to the data:

 

Tyreke Evans doesn’t pass enough.  We shouldn’t run our offense through him.

 

So setting aside the notion of PG v SG for a bit.  We can all agree that most teams have a primary ball handler who facilitates the offense in the half court.  In some cases it is a PG like Chris Paul or Deron Williams.  However, in other cases it might be a SG or SF like a Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, or Brandon Roy.  So let’s take a look at some of the non-PGs who facilitate the offense for their team:

 

Player

Usage

Assist Rate

Tyreke Evans

25.64

24.64 / 32.91 (J/F)

Kobe Bryant

34.27

18.77

Dwyane Wade

31.64

17.26

Joe Johnson

26.86

26.48

Brandon Roy

26.75

18.19

Kevin Martin

29.8

11.45

Carmelo Anthony

32.55

10.83

LeBron James

31.98

27.83

Monta Ellis

29.43

20.38

 

(Yes, Kevin Martin was included as a joke)

 

Not a bad list at all.  And even withholding Martin, of the 7 guards/forwards listed who facilitate their team’s offense a large percentage of the time, Reke is 3rd.  He’s trailing only Joe Johnson and LeBron James by a couple of percentage points. 

 

Even more impressive, before Reke suffered his ankle injury in early January (before he started looking healthier and playing much better) his AR was 20%.  If I round up to 20.64 for simplicities sake.  That means since he came back from the injury, Reke’s Assist Rate has been 32.91%.  5% points higher than any player on this list.  Thought I am guessing no one would suggest Kobe or LeBron need Andre Miller to run the offense.

 

In fact his 32.91% Assist Rate would be within 2% points of Beno Udrih (34.31), Chauncey Billups (34.25), Russell Westbrook, and Baron Davis (34.18).  It would also give him a higher Assist Rate than Darren Collison (32.30), Stephen Curry (31.28), and Derrick Rose (30.50).

 

Ok.  Great players. But can you win a ring with a ball hog like Reke?

 

So just looking at a list of great players may be interesting, but it doesn’t answer our franchise’s ultimate question: can we win a championship building a team around Tyreke Evans.  The long version is very complex, and I am not attempting to answer with this post.  However, we can examine elite teams and see if Reke is a good enough passer to be a primary ball handler for a potential champion.  Below are all of the "go to" guards and forwards for teams in the Conference Finals since 2007.

 

Player

Year

Usage

Assist Rate

Tyreke Evans

2011

25.64

24.64 / 32.91 (J/F)

Kobe Bryant

2010

32.25

17.90

Rajon Rondo

2010

20.16

62.32

Steve Nash

2010

22.89

64.68

Vince Carter

2010

25.20

18.80

Kobe Bryant

2009

32.16

18.39

Hedo Turkoglu

2009

23.00

26.71

Carmello Anthony

2009

31.52

13.77

LeBron James

2009

33.80

26.81

Paul Pierce

2008

24.82

23.69

Kobe Bryant

2008

31.39

19.44

Chauncey Billups

2008

22.96

43.03

Tony Parker

2008

28.17

30.21

Manu Ginobili

2008

28.69

24.10

Manu Ginobili

2007

27.01

22.39

LeBron James

2007

30.91

21.57

Chauncey Billups

2007

21.52

43.76

Deron Williams

2007

21.08

51.05

Average

 

26.91

31.10

Average Finals

 

27.71

26.55

Average Champions

 

29.06

20.59

Average SGs

 

29.45

20.17

(PG/SG/SF based on highest PER were chosen.  Certainly if we put Howard and Duncan on this list, the AR would drop even further, but I wanted to compare apples to apples and comparing Evans to a Center seems disingenuous.  I also chose 2 Spurs in ’08 as both Parker and Ginobili were essentially identical.)

 

Looking at the data above, both Reke’s full year numbers and his January/February sub-set appear to make him a good enough passer to be the focal point of an elite team. 

 

What’s interesting is that similar to the data in the usage article I did last week, you will notice a pattern of pure PGs diminishing as you get to higher levels of the playoffs.  Again, you don’t want a ball hog on your team per say, but if you viewed all players on a passing versus scoring spectrum, it appears having a player who skews towards the scoring end of the spectrum gives you the best chance at a title. 

 

Also interesting is that even ignoring Kobe, who has been called a ball hog before, Evan’s passing numbers are competitive with or better than most of the similar players on this list (Ginobili, Pierce, LeBron, and Hedo).  So it’s not Kobe’s repeated appearances on the list that is making Evans look good.

 

 

But we still need Andre Miller. Who do you put next to your primary ball handler?

 

Team

Year

POS

Player

Usage

Assist Rate

TS%

3PT%

Lakers

2010

PG

Derek Fisher

13.98

28.96

49.90

34.80

Lakers

2010

SG

Kobe Bryant

32.25

17.90

54.50

32.90

Lakers

2010

SF

Ron Artest

16.23

24.79

51.40

35.50

Lakers

2010

PF

Pau Gasol

21.40

19.00

59.30

0.00

Lakers

2010

C

Andrew Bynum

20.76

7.42

61.00

0.00

Celtics

2010

PG

Rajon Rondo

20.16

62.32

54.00

21.30

Celtics

2010

SG

Ray Allen

20.22

17.31

60.10

47.70

Celtics

2010

SF

Paul Pierce

23.83

17.82

61.30

41.40

Celtics

2010

PF

Kevin Garnett

22.07

19.09

57.00

20.00

Celtics

2010

C

Kendrick Perkins

17.63

9.89

61.40

0.00

Magic

2010

PG

Rafer Alston*

21.25

37.61

50.90

31.70

Magic

2009

SG

Courtney Lee

15.49

14.15

55.60

40.40

Magic

2009

SF

Hedo Turkoglu

23.00

26.71

54.10

35.60

Magic

2009

PF

Rashard Lewis

22.05

15.01

58.00

39.70

Magic

2009

C

Dwight Howard

26.08

7.03

60.00

0.00

Spurs

2007

6th Man

Manu Ginobili**

27.01

22.39

62.90

39.60

Spurs

2007

PG

Tony Parker

27.32

29.15

57.20

39.50

Spurs

2007

SG

Michael Finley

19.61

14.36

52.40

36.40

Spurs

2007

SF

Bruce Bowen

10.87

20.74

51.10

38.40

Spurs

2007

PF

Tim Duncan

27.9

17.02

57.90

11.10

Spurs

2007

C

Francisco Oberto

12.96

18.26

57.50

0.00

Cavs

2007

PG

Daniel Gibson***

13.37

23.62

55.60

41.90

Cavs

2007

SG

Larry Hughes

21.69

20.6

48.00

33.30

Cavs

2007

SF

LeBron James

30.91

21.57

55.30

31.90

Cavs

2007

PF

Drew Gooden

19.97

8.92

50.80

16.70

Cavs

2007

C

Zydrunas Ilgauskas

21.63

12.08

52.70

0.00

Average

O2 G/F

 

 

18.43

23.48

54.11

38.46

Average

Star PF/C

 

 

23.82

14.84

57.38

6.22

Average

PG (-RR, TP)

 

 

16.20

30.06

52.13

36.13

 

(*Jameer Nelson was clearly intended to be the Magic’s PG, but he was injured during the season and Rafer Alston was their PG as they made their run to the finals  **Manu was the 6th man, but also the Spurs’ best G/F ***Eric Snow started most games at PG during the regular season.  However, Gibson played an additional 158 minutes or 8mpg during the playoffs)

 

 

I will be very interested in other people’s observations, but here is what I got from this table.

 

·        Most of these teams surrounded their primary ball handler with 1 low usage and 1 medium usage G/SF.  So between PG, SG and SF you generally can have 1 high, 1 mid and 1 low usage starter. 

·        The Spurs are a very interesting team in that they were successful with 2 high usage back court players.  Parker is also an aberration compared to the other PGs on this list.  All of this might explain why Pop used Manu off the bench.  To take advantage of the 3 very unique talents he had.  A brilliant move in retrospect.

·        Most of the other 2 G/SF were lights out shooters.  As you might imagine, great team’s surrounded their Primary Ball Handlers with great shooters who could space the floor.  Every team except for the ’10 Lakers had at least one player shooting 39%, most had more, and the average, non-star G/SF shot 38.46%.

·        All of these team’s except the ’07 Cavs paired their primary ball handler with a great big man.  It varied which player was better.  Your average big man had a 23.82 usage rate and a 57.38% True Shooting Percentage.

·        Venturing away from the data, I’d also note that most of these team’s had a designated defensive stopper who was not the primary ball handler.  Artest, Bowen, Lee and Hughes all allowed the star players to save some energy for offense.  This doesn’t mean the primary ball handler wasn’t a good defender either.  Kobe and James in particular were good man defenders, but it’s hard to carry the O and D for 40+ minutes.

·        The PGs next to the Primary Ball Handlers are interesting too.  Take out Rondo (who was the Primary Ball Handler) and Parker (see earlier bullet) and they have a 16.2 Usage, 30.06 Assist Rate and shot 36.13% on 3 pointers.  Their role is to catch and shoot, not to take the ball out of the Primary Ball Handler’s hands.

 

What does this mean for the Kings?

 

Well, let’s take a look at our starting 5:

 

Kings

2011

PG

Beno Udrih

17.14

34.31

58.40

35.90

Kings

2011

SG

Tyreke Evans

25.64

24.64 / 32.91

48.10

29.10

Kings

2011

SF

Omri Casspi

16.87

9.56

52.20

37.80

Kings

2011

PF

Jason Thompson

18.08

12.32

52.70

0.00

Kings

2011

C

Demarcus Cousins

27.91

11.64

47.80

25.00

 

 

Well, Reke and Cousins seem to fit.  Thought both will need to bring up their TS% from this season.  Reke’s was higher last year and the drop can largely be explained by the plantar fasciitis.  Cousins is very young, but will need to raise his TS% about 10 points. 

 

Beno actually appears to fit in better than I would have guessed.  Though he is an awful defender.  Same with Casspi.  Ideally though we can replace one of them with a medium usage player.  It seems easier to find one at SF, but if we get Irving, that should work as well.  We also need that player to be a stud defender if we are going to keep Casspi or Beno in the lineup long term.

 

Ok, stats are nice, but everyone says Reke can’t pass.  Why?

 

Personally, I think there are two reasons.  One out of Reke’s control and one that is self-inflicted. 

 

The first reason is simply that he has been unfairly stereotyped.  Coming out of college, many analysts said he is not a PG or a great passer.  So even now, they pay attention only to evidence supporting their conclusion.  Psychologically, this is called a Confirmation Bias.  Basically, Reke is fighting against the story that people have already made up about him.

 

To show the effect of this bias, here is one more comparison:

 

Player

Year

Age

Usage

Assist Rate

TS%

Derrick Rose

1

20

22.60

33.68

51.60

Derrick Rose

2

21

27.19

26.97

53.20

Derrick Rose

3

22

32.08

30.50

53.50

Tyreke Evans

1

20

26.16

25.98

52.90

Tyreke Evans

2

21

25.64

24.64 / 32.91

48.10

 

Very similar numbers.  Rose had a higher assist rate and lower usage rate as a rookie.  Partially because his team had Deng, Hinrich, Salmons, Gordon, and Miller instead of Beno, Greene, Casspi, Hawes and JT. 

 

Even in January/February when Reke had an assist rate higher than Rose has ever had, he was getting criticized for being too selfish and not enough of a passer.  Has anyone ever said that about Derrick Rose?  If so, I haven’t heard it.  Why is that?  Because coming out of college Rose was thought of as a PG and since 25-30% is a good assist rate for a star player, no one has ever questioned that assumption. 

 

And Reke wasn’t getting accusations during January/February because of a diminished TS% either. During that time his TS% was 52.11% (53.29 if you take out that awful first game back against the Knicks).

 

Evans is trending with very similar statistics to Rose, but in the eyes of sports writers Rose is a true PG and Evans is a selfish player who needs to learn to pass.

 

Now, the second part I believe is also feeding into this stereotype.  The part that is self-inflicted by Evans is the "hero complex" he gets in the last 2-3 minutes of a close game.  As Henry Abbot demonstrated very well on Truhoop, both Kobe Bryant and any team running isolations is using an inefficient offense.

 

Evans passes the ball well and willingly for the first 45 minutes of the game, but when the game gets tight, we run the 1 Flat Four and Reke takes predictable, hard shots while forgetting about his teammates.  These "end of game" struggles feed into the view that Evans doesn’t pass enough.

 

Fortunately, there is no reason why that should not be a very correctable error.  Given Evans passing ability and the degree with which he passes over the first 45 minutes of the game, I expect the problem to be corrected with more experience. 

 

Otherwise, let’s forget the ridiculous notions that Reke cannot pass and that we need a high usage, true PG next to him.  It doesn’t fit either with the current statistics we have or the historical statistics of what you need to win a championship.

(This is a FanPost from a member of the Sactown Royalty community. The views expressed come from the member, and not Sactown Royalty staff.)

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