If you’re reading this post, I’m assuming you’re a Kings fan. Otherwise, why else would you be reading a Sacramento Kings blog unless you’re just trying to be supportive of my writing career?
Assuming you are a Kings fan — do you remember back in March and April when you were constantly arguing with Milwaukee Bucks fans, Golden State Warriors fans and to a truly ludicrous extent New Orleans Hornets fans? The argument was about who should be the 2010 Rookie of the Year.
Brandon Jennings was riding the playoff appearance wave and no other qualifying Rookie of the Year award hopeful could play that card. Yes, Jennings shot an abysmal percentage from almost everywhere on the floor inside the three-point line but he managed the game better than any young point guard in the league. Stephen Curry was the other prime candidate and he was a fantastic one at that. The statistics he put up from January through the end of the season made people throw Steve Nash’s name around as a potential match for Steph’s prime. And Darren Collison… well, Hornets fans are really passionate whether the premise of their argument is completely insane or not.
At some point, you probably caught yourself arguing about how much better Tyreke was than any and all of these guys. You may have said Jennings sucked and was a horrible shooter. You could have said Curry was too small, a product of a chaotic basketball existence and not nearly the defender Evans showed.
Now that we’re months away from an argument that has been solved by selected media members covering the NBA, we should be able to all celebrate how good these three are. And in doing so we should think about just how incredible of a shooter Stephen Curry is. After a slow start in the first two months of his career, Dell Curry’s oldest little guy exploded into a statistical orgasm. From January through April, Steph shot 46.9% from the field, 45% from three-point range, and 90% from the free throw line. For a small combo guard that was allegedly too slow to get his shot off at the NBA level, those are pretty impressive shooting percentages. He also averaged 21 points, 6.8 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game during this time.
To bash Stephen Curry’s rookie season is to not appreciate just how impressive of a player he is. But the most incredible part of his game is certainly his shooting ability. Imagining what Tyreke Evans would be like with shooting ability similar to Steph Curry is sort of bordering on the absurdity of Create-A-Player possibilities in any NBA video game. But what if Tyreke could find a happy medium between the way he shot his jumper and the way Steph shot his jumper last season? What if Evans took away that glaring weakness he was often maligned for and turned it into a strength?
Would any of us truly be ready for such a weapon in the NBA?
Check out HoopData.com and you’ll find one of the most useful tools you can find in basketball research – their shot location statistics. On shots from 16-23 feet last season, Tyreke Evans put up a below league average performance of 32% while Stephen Curry shot a very nice 44%. And on three-point attempts, Reke managed an unsightly 25.5% with Curry residing among league leaders with 43.7%.
Tyreke Evans often drew the opponent’s best perimeter defender last season. And that perimeter defender usually had his teammates form a mosh pit behind him to attempt to deter Reke from driving to the lane. Because Evans seemingly knew his limitations of what he was able to accomplish as a rookie, he drove the lane and did so in a stubborn way. He led the league in attempts at the rim and bullied his way into wherever he wanted to go on the court. Sometimes this lead to horrible decisions in attacking a defense and Evans was left with nowhere to go. But more times than not, he was able to get to the basket and score on just about anybody.
The one luxury he didn’t have was a deadly or even adequate jump shot to balance out his superior ability to penetrate into the defense before him. Defenders like Shane Battier, Nicolas Batum and even stars like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James in crunch time were able to lean on his inferior jumper as a source of frustration and weakness to stop Evans whenever they needed to.
As we learned from Sam Amick on FanHouse this week, Reke didn’t always have this problem. He used to have quite the jump shot in high school and while we only have this favorable YouTube highlight reel to really show us, we can notice the difference in what he shows here and what he showed us in his rookie season.
First, check out the mixtape:
Now check out a couple of examples I put together to show the difference in his inconsistent shooting form:
When you look at his high school highlights, you see that Reke’s shooting form keeps the ball in front of his face and the follow-through with his shooting hand is smooth and balanced. Compare that to the video of his misses and you’ll see plenty of problems that probably led to the misfires:
- On the first jumper the ball is brought towards the side of his head, which is not consistent with the shooting form from his high school days.
- On the second and third jumpers he brings the ball over his head and then awkwardly over his forehead.
- On the fourth jumper his follow-through breaks unevenly to the right.
- On the fifth jumper Tyreke’s follow-through is cut short and seems very unfinished.
So what changed from high school to his season in Sacramento? According to Sam Amick’s fantastic piece, many think it’s probably a lack of confidence fostered in his one year under then Memphis coach John Calipari.
“I don’t blame anybody, but I think coach Cal looked at is like, ‘Hey, you know what? This kid can get to the basket any time he wants, so let’s play him to his strength,” said Tony Bergeron, Evans’ coach at the Aston, Pa. high school. “(But) I used to have a fit watching his Memphis games. I’d be screaming at the TV, saying ‘Shoot!’”
Which is precisely what Bergeron shouted during Evans’ prep years, too.
“His brother Doc was the one who would go in, work on that arc and get shots up with him,” Bergeron said. “Doc gets a ton of credit. … And then there was me, who loves the three-ball. I used to destroy ‘Reke for not shooting. I’m yelling, ‘Shoot the three, shoot the three!’ Then he’d start hitting it. And then all of a sudden it clicked during his junior year. Everyone would start bellying up, and he would go right by people. The game became very easy.”
According to Bergeron, Evans shot 40.6 percent from three-point range as a senior while playing under preparatory school rules that mandated 10-minute quarters. In addition to the accuracy, though, it’s the contrast in volume from then to now that is remarkable.
Evans, his brothers and his friends have been working on repairing the damaged confidence in his jumper over this off-season. We have a little video evidence from the tireless hours they all have put in to help fix his biggest weakness. We see a smoother stroke, improved form and a lot more confidence in the jump shot. And while we can’t truly know if it’s on the way to respectability and eventually something for the defense to fear until he gets out into the regular season, it does give everybody something to ponder.
Is anybody ready for a version of Tyreke Evans in which any spot on the floor is potentially lethal?
There is no limit to what Tyreke Evans can do on the basketball court if he has the jump shot in his arsenal. Tyreke would more often than not have his opponent completely off-balance with his superior dribbling, the unrelenting motivation to drive easily into the heart of the defense and the “Break Glass In Case Of Emergency” jump shot at his disposal.
With players like LeBron James, Jason Kidd and Russell Westbrook it’s easy to get caught up in the game of What If when trying to figure out how good they would be with an effective jumper from outside. But it’s always a faulty daydream because these guys never seemingly had this ability at any point in their competitive careers. However, with Tyreke we have tales of two different existences. We have “good jumper Reke” and we have “bad jumper Reke.”
And if we get a chance to see “good jumper Reke” from here on out, Kings fans should get ready to start arguing about future awards.