If this is to work – “this” being “Tyreke Evans coexisting with Marcus Thornton/DeMarcus Cousins/et al while playing point guard” – then the remaining Sacramento Kings supporters need to see some evidence. A 10-assist night for Evans, even against a slumping Utah team (whom they easily defeated, 106-97), would seem to be the needed proof.
His assists tonight led uniformly to high-efficiency shots: four of them led to open jump shots and the rest to layups or dunks. He deserves credit for drawing defensive attention and capitalizing on it to find his teammates for open shots. That is one of the point guard’s primary responsibilities.
His approach, though, was rather clunky and basic, at least tonight: he held the ball at the top of the key, then either drove or passed to the wing. If he didn’t have an opening, he dumped the ball off and then sat at the top of the key for the remainder of the play. This is not the dynamic creation utilized by floor generals like Chris Paul, Steve Nash, or Rajon Rondo.
Further, Evans’ lack of movement without the ball is troubling in light of the team’s development during his recent absence. With Evans out for 19 games with plantar fasciitis, the Kings discovered a mildly effective attack that featured Cousins at the mid-to-high post finding cutters. In March, 2.6 of the rookie big man’s per-game assists led to layups or dunks, according to hoopdata.com.
With Evans’ return, Cousins has still gotten a fair share of touches in that mid-post area, but Evans does not seem to make a concerted effort to feed the big man. Worse, Evans has shown little inclination to make the kind of cuts or attempt the pick-and-roll action that could make their two-man attack devastating.
Of course, Cousins could also help his cause by continuing to develop his inside attack. Frustratingly, his attempts at the rim have fluctuated wildly throughout the season (3.1 per game in February, 5.1 in March), while his ill-advised outside jump shots have actually increased in the past two months.
Per 82games.com, two of Sacramento’s most effective five-man units this year have included both Evans and Cousins, so there is some support for their candidacy as the franchise’s foundation going forward.
Anyone who has watched the team closely, though, has hopefully concluded that Evans should not be the point guard. He is best suited as a Clyde Drexler/Ray Allen-type shooting guard who handles the ball and has the occasional big assist night . He has not shown the distributor’s mentality that would qualify him to run the team; he passes more as a last resort when he doesn’t have a clear look.
If the Kings can find another ballhandler to relieve Evans of the point guard burden (and Beno Udrih, unfortunately, may not qualify) and convince Evans to let Ballhandler X assume said role, he and Cousins could truly be the foundation of a dangerous team.
If Evans or the team – or both – insist that he dominate the ball, though, nights like this one are likely to be far more the exception than the rule.
About the Author
Written by Steven Jones
Portland native, Highland Park resident, middle school teacher/basketball coach.