NBA Roundtable

Surprising Sacramento

In General NBA on December 18, 2009 at 12:17 am

Tyreke Evans

Here’s what I wrote about Evans prior to the season starting

Somewhat similar to what Russell Westbrook gave the Thunder last season. A lot of the same problems with decision making, turnovers, over-handling the ball, a weak jump shot, and inefficient scoring. I also think he’ll be a great rebounder for a point guard, like Westbrook was.

In terms of differences, I think Tyreke is a better scorer and will score in the 17-19 points per game range rather than the 15 points Westbrook put in. And also defensively, Westbrook was a good-to-very good defensive player as a rookie. I haven’t seen enough of Evans defensively, well against talented offensive players, to get a good read on what he can do there … so that’s a complete unknown for me. He might be a good defender, he might be a lousy one, I’ll have to wait and see.

Statistically, I’m thinking of 17-19 points per game, 5-6 rebounds, 3.5-to-5 assists, while posting a poor-to-very poor TS% and being amongst the league leaders in turnovers.

Some of those thoughts were pretty much on point but most of them were totally wrong. So, let’s have a closer look at how Evans is doing in some of those categories:

Turnovers

Tyreke Evans is averaging 2.9 turnovers per game. That leaves him tied in 19th place for the most turnovers per game.

There’s a Bill Fitch quote I like when talking about Larry Bird’s turnover problems with the media — “those who do the most painting spill the most paint” …

So while Evans is averaging a lot of turnovers he is also doing a lot of work with the ball. He is taking 15+ field goal attempts per game and 6+ free throw attempts + handing out 5 assists a night while scoring his 20 points.

Tyreke Evans doesn’t have a turnover problem … relative to the amount of offensive responsibilities + positive offensive contributions Tyreke has been making he’s been good to very good in relation to turnovers.

Inefficient Scoring

I had expected Tyreke Evans to shoot somewhere south of 45% from the field while getting to the line 5-6 times a night leading to a true shooting percentage between 49-52%.

Again, he’s playing much better than I expected. Evans has been shooting 47% from the field (15.7 field goals a game) and 75% from the line while getting to the stripe 6.3 times a night. He taken two three pointers a game hitting on 24% of them. Overall, Evans has an eFG% of 48.8% and a true shooting percentage of 54.7%.

Tyreke Evans’ scoring efficiency has been climbing over the past few weeks and is likely to either hold steady or increase a small bit further before settling there for the remainder of the season.

Jump shooting was also a major concern for Tyreke Evans after showing poor shooting ability during college and summer league. And it still is a problem for Evans. He’s hitting only 37% of his jump shots (eFG%) which is very poor for a point guard.

Evans was always going to be able to get to the rim whenever he wanted too but what’s most impressive is his decision making, shot selection, in turning down shooting opportunities and showing more intent to get to the rim. This has resulted in Evans taking slightly more than half of his attempts (53%) inside the paint where he’s hitting 59% of his shot attempts while staying away from his jump shot.  Evans intent to get to the rim and ability to keep his jump shots to a low number are a major key to his shooting efficiency.

Tyreke Evans has an excellent post game. Easily the best of any point guard in the league today.

Decision Making + Point Guard Play

Tyreke Evans has displayed excellent composure on the basketball + good decision making capability. His passing has been superb for a shooting guard and a solid for a point guard. The turnovers + shot selection/efficiency are also important signs of Evans’ high decision making capability.

I haven’t gotten to see enough of Evans at the point to get a good feel for his floor leadership skills — ball goes to the right player at the right spot at the right time + directing the team offensively + controlling the tempo — so I can’t really comment on that just yet. He did look serviceable in these departments when I watched him. Those skills instantly became above average when Tyreke switched to the shooting guard position.

Tyreke Evans has a cerebral feel for the game. He’s comfortable at any of the three positions on the perimeter and could probably even play some minutes as a quick four. He can operate from any spot on the floor, from the top of the key, the wings, the midpost, the low post, the elbows. Also, his dribbling ability + athleticism allows to him to get wherever he wants to go on the court. A very effective player in a multitude of positions/situations which makes it increasingly difficult for the defense to rattle/limit/contain him.

Defense

I didn’t know what to expect from Evans defensively prior to the season so I didn’t comment on that. From what I’ve seen he’s a good all-round defender when matched up against shooting guards and small forwards and a solid defender at the point. I haven’t seen Evans tested by high scoring quick guards yet, and I imagine he’d struggle somewhat there, but his team defense has been impressive. I think his contributions there will outpace any initial problems Evans has against quick paced guards.

I particular enjoy Sacramento’s ability to switch all three perimeter positions at a moment’s notice while maintaining their overall defense. That is valuable.

Overall

Tyreke Evans has been an All-Star caliber player. He has been superb at the shooting guard position and good-to-very good at the point guard position.

Evans looks like he’s going to be a perennial All-Star at the very least and he has the potential to be a lot more than that down the road.

Omri Casspi

I have loved watching Casspi everytime I’ve seen him …

  • An excellent complementary wing player.
  • Superb jump shot
    • Field goal percentage = 51.4%
    • Three point percentage = 45.9%
    • Effective field goal percentage = 59.0%
  • Good scorer in the paint and gets into the paint at a good clip. Very good in transition too.
  • A solid rebounder who grabs four rebounds in 24 minutes. That’s 6 per 36 and a rebounding rate of 9.5%.
  • Is a solid + highly versatile defender with very good defensive potential.
  • Capable of playing shooting guard + small forward + power forward positions if needed. Best off as a wing player but can be used as a stretch four if matchups dictate.
  • He’s also scoring at a highly surprising rate, 11 points in 24 minutes, 17 per 36.
  • Decent handle + decent passing skills.

Omri Casspi is the type of role player team’s dream of landing. He fits into any type of team/system and alongside any type of leading players. He can play off the ball alongside ball dominating players or play in an equal opportunity offensive system and use his full display of talents.

Omri Casspi has the opportunity of becoming an elite level role player in the NBA.

Jason Thompson

Solid improvement from Thompson. He’s increased his minutes, his scoring, his scoring efficiency, and his rebounding. Sorry, no, his rebounding has reverted back to last season’s numbers, but he was doing a better job rebounding the ball earlier in the season. Solid improvement.

Beno Udrih

Beno Udrih has been smoking hot to begin the season. He’s shooting 53% from the field and 44% from the downtown for a true shooting percentage of 61%. This is a player who has always been a mediocre player in terms of scoring efficiency (53.3% TS% for his career). A good two point jump shooter with a streaky three point shot.

Anyway, behind his fantastic shooting performances, Beno Udrih has been a major difference maker as a role player for the Kings in the first third of the season.

That said, I’m doubtful that it will continue. He seems to be playing above himself at the moment. Udrih should have a career season shooting wise + overall though. I think he’s benefiting from the presence of Tyreke Evans and is in a role where he’s much more comfortable in right now — less responsibility as a playmaker/floor general but enough to fully express himself out there.

Overall

The Kings rank 5th in points per game and 26th in opponents points per game. They rank 8th in offensive efficiency and 26th in defensive efficiency. By their point + efficiency differentials, they’re a .500 or slightly below team this season.

I’m amazed at how well the Kings are doing offensively without Kevin Martin and would expect that to drop some … but when Kevin Martin comes back, and if the Kings manage to fit him in without any difficulties (Martin needs to give his teammates more room to operate given their strong play without him), the Kings should be well able to maintain that type of performance throughout the rest of the season. They could even build on it and improve their present offensive efficiency some more with Martin in the lineup.

The defense is still fairly poor but it has improved some. It likely won’t see a major improvement until the Kings find an above average interior presence defensively or an elite stopper who gets 30 minutes a night on the perimeter.

Notes — some offensive stats

  • The Kings ranked 25th in offensive efficiency last season
  • The Kings were 22nd-26th in terms of eFG%, turnovers and offensive rebounding. They were very good at getting to the free throw line largely due to Kevin Martin.
  • This season the Kings have moved up to 8th in offensive efficiency
  • They rank 7th in eFG% and 5th in offensive rebounding but are below average with respect to turnovers (23rd) and FTA/FGA (19th). That free throw mark will improve once Kevin Martin returns though.
  • Side Note: Kevin Martin + Tyreke Evans will be the best backcourt in the league at getting to the foul line. They should get 15+ FTAs per game this season and become a 17-20 FTA tandem down the road.

Ime Udoka

Not much to say here, I’m just a fan of Udoka’s and wanted to say that I like what he’s brought to the Kings since joining them. His above average defense + above average rebounding has been a good addition to the Kings bench. It’s given them a stopper when they’ve needed it and brought some increased aggressiveness/mojo to the side.

Ime Udoka was an excellent minimum contract signing.

Conclusions

The Kings are a much better team than I had expected prior to the season. The main reason for this development has been the strong play of Tyreke Evans and to a lesser degree the quality play of Omri Casspi and Beno Udrih.

The Kings are no longer a very poor team, and are not a poor team either, they are a decent-to-mediocre basketball team.  And, in Tyreke Evans the Kings have a budding star who is already playing at an All-Star level.

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  1. Hi Dave,

    I’m sure you’re not the only one that has been really surprise by the Kings this season. In fact, knowing how the Spurs has been struggling at times this season, I have made the Kings as my next favourite. If they get themselves a place in the play off, so be it if it’s No.8; that would be huge achievement for this franchise.

    I really love watching Omri CASSPI too. In my opinion, he is the buy of the season. I know that Israel is also well known producing great ballers but kept wondering how come they never had anyone played in the NBA. This guy will go along way and hopefully his success will open the door for many of his countrymen to come over.

    By the way, not sure if you know about the 2010 FIBA World Championship draw. Was hoping that you might post an article on that. Anyway, you can check out my preview.

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