Sacramento Kings point guard Tyreke Evans (13) goes up for a layup above Houston Rockets power forward Terrence Jones (6) during the third quarter at Sleep Train Arena. The Houston Rockets defeated the Sacramento Kings 112-102. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
This one is going to be controversial. I believe that the Hawks front-office should target troubled Sacramento Kings swingman Tyreke Evans.
For the right price.
Evans emerged on the scene with an incredible rookie year in 2009-2010 when he averaged 20.1 points, 5.8 assists, and 5.3 rebounds per game while shooting an ultra-respectable 45.8% from the field as the number one option in Sacramento. However, since that emergence, Evans’ numbers have gone the wrong way in every category on a year-by-year basis. On the surface, this four-year decline would make Evans look like a lost cause, but there’s one very important detail that everyone seems to be missing.
Tyreke Evans was pretty darn good in 2012-2013.
Lost in the “declining numbers” was the fact that Evans’ efficiency numbers went up in a big way, and that his overall “production” was on the decline simply because of a loss of minutes. In fact, the shooting guard shot his best percentages of his career from the field (47.8%), from three-point land (33.8%), and from a true-shooting standpoint (55.8%). In addition, Evans lowered his turnover rate to a career-low 10.3%, and even increased his already-solid rebound rate to 8.2%.
What does this all mean? Frankly, Evans has received a bad rap in recent years. A lot of the negativity was certainly influenced by less-than-stellar demeanor and decision-making, but this is an incredibly talented player entering free agency at 23 years old after putting up a PER of 18.16 that would place him in the top-10 in the league among both shooting guards and small forwards.
To get away from the stats, Evans is an extremely interesting player. His fatal flaws are an inability to shoot consistently from the outside, and a willingness (read: choice) to play an extreme amount of one-on-one basketball. These have been magnified by the fact that he’s played for multiple coaches (read: bad coaches), and that the organization has basically been a grease fire from the moment he set foot in Sacramento. However, his shooting vastly improved this season (as the career-high rates would attest), and if Evans can simply become passable from three-point distance (i.e. 35% or so), it would greatly open up his offensive game.
On the positive side, he’s a tremendous creator off of the dribble. Evans goes right almost exclusively, but he’s very strong for a guard/swingman, and he’s a very good finisher at the rim in traffic. In fact, he’s among the league’s best in the paint, and when he’s going right, he’s virtually unstoppable off of the dribble. One of the big strides in Evans’ game in 2012-2013 was his decision to move away from mid-range jump shots, as he shot a career-low 2.0 shots from 16-23 feet, which was down from over 3.5 shots per game from that area in his first three seasons.
Defensively, he could be an absolutely elite player… if he put in the effort. He has all of the tools (lateral quickness, length, strength) to be a tremendous player on that end, but all of the advanced metrics place him at near-average. Again, I’d attribute some of this to bad situations and bad defense around him, but in the end, he’s a maddeningly inconsistent player in terms of effort/energy.
People that know me and/or my work would likely be shocked to see me touting Tyreke Evans as a potential free agent target for the Hawks. In the interest of honesty, I’ve never been a big fan of his game in terms of decision-making and effort, but in this case, it’s a simple matter of numbers. The Hawks haven’t had too much success (read: any success) in acquiring the absolute top-tier free agents (the franchise even had to trade for Joe Johnson, which everyone forgets), and grabbing a 23-year-old with Evans’ level of upside could be extremely valuable. I’ll be the first to say that if the price tag for Evans rises into the 8-figure range per season, I want no part of that, but if Danny Ferry and company can acquire him for a valuable price ($8 million per season?) and place him in a Spurs-like organization with quality teammates like Al Horford around him, I actually love that move.
Stay tuned for the final installment of the Hawks wish list series as we take a look at the “best of the rest”.