Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
In the final year of his rookie deal, Tyreke Evans is finally showing the improvement so many have desired to see since his stellar rookie of the year campaign.
There is a narrative among some fans that Tyreke Evans hasn't improved, that he actually peaked in his rookie year. Those fans are misguided, blinded by the raw stats that suggested Evans was about to become a superstar. They're not entirely to blame. We all were expecting big things from Evans, hoping that he'd turn our flailing franchise around.
Obviously, that hasn't been the case. There have been some setbacks, both self-inflicted (being out of shape following his rookie year) and not (plantar fasciitis, working for one of the most poorly run franchises in history). Evans has failed to live up to the huge expectations that were set for him and that has unfairly overshadowed the fact that despite not producing the same amount of volume, he HAS improved in several areas, particularly this season.
By far the biggest flaw in Tyreke's game coming into the league and for the past few years has been his jump shot, or lack thereof. Evans excels at getting into the lane, but opponent's have learned to give him space and force him to shoot instead. This became a problem, particularly without other floor spacers on the floor.
This season, Evans has evolved his game to include a rather formidable spot-up shot from outside. In his first three years, Evans failed to reach the 30% mark from three, and was just a paltry 20.2% from downtown last year. This season however, he's almost doubled his accuracy, hitting 37.1% for three, a higher percentage than Francisco Garcia (when he was with the team) and Isaiah Thomas. Further, on solely spot-up attempts, Synergy Sports puts him at 43.2% from three, a great number.
Another area of improvement has been his movement without the ball. One of the main reasons Evans put up gaudy numbers was by being completely ball dominant. His Usage Rate of 26.2% led that team by far. Evans has had to adapt as the Kings have added more ball dominant players around him (again, terribly run franchise). This includes moving off the ball to take advantage of his elite penetration. According to Hoopdata, Evans is seeing career-highs in the amount of his baskets that are being assisted. In his rookie year, just 21.2% of his baskets were assisted, and while that number has gone up every year, it has seen its biggest jump this year with 44.4% of his baskets assisted. That includes 43.9% of his layups and 89.3% of his three pointers.
Another reason for Evans' jump in efficiency has been taking less of the bad shots. The 16-23 foot range is the worst shot in basketball, because it's the most effort for the least reward. Evans has cut his attempts from that area to just 2.2 attempts a game, a good thing considering he's at just 29.0% from there. I wish DeMarcus Cousins would do the same, as he's increased his attempts from 16-23 feet to 4.1 a game while shooting just 30%, 10% worse than last season.
There are still flaws in Evans game. He still has no mid-range game whatsoever. From 3-15 feet, he averages just 1.5 attempts a game. He also is still not a plus defender, despite having the physical tools to become one. Defense is a team concept however, and the Kings are a notoriously bad defensive team (last in the league in Defensive Rating). Evans is still far away from his prime however with plenty of time to develop these areas.
Tyreke Evans will never be a superstar and that's okay. He's still a very, very good player and the Kings franchise, under whatever ownership, should make it a priority to re-sign him this summer.