It’s been just about a week since Keith Smart decided to shuffle his starting lineup. And in that timeframe, it’s paid dividends for the Sacramento Kings, partly due to the play of their new starting backcourt.
Aaron Brooks and Tyreke Evans have complimented each other well since the Kings head coach decided to pair the two players. With Brooks, Evans has finally found his offense, thanks to the veteran’s willingness and ability to play without the basketball.
“I like to come off the ball a little bit,” Brooks said of the dynamic between he and Evans after Saturday’s win over the Utah Jazz. “I know I’m the point guard in title, but he has the ball and he’s making most of the decisions.
“I’m attacking off the closeout, so it’s either an open shot or attacking somebody running out at you,” Brooks added. “It makes the game a lot easier.”
Evans has also been able to handle the ball more with Brooks at his side. That’s allowed the fourth-year man to find his niche not as a shooting guard and not as a point guard, but as a hybrid of both.
“I can create plays,” Brooks said. “But this is one of the interesting parts about coming here. I know Tyreke is kind of a two/one and I’m kind of a one/two. So, it’s been working so far.”
Though he’s worked to improve his play off-the-ball in recent years, Evans has always been more comfortable with the ball in his hands. He stays more engaged on offense, which in turn makes him more aggressive. Evans acknowledges that he’s made a conscious effort to attack the rim more frequently and that’s led to better shot selection.
“I think Tyreke has done a better job of not settling for the jump shot,” Smart said of Evans’ performance with Brooks in the backcourt. “I think the way he’s been playing of attacking the basket, shooting some spot-up shots (has helped him).”
Over the last four games, Evans has put up numbers close to those from his award-winning rookie year. Since the change in the backcourt, Evans is scoring 21.3 points, dishing out 4.5 assists and grabbing five rebounds in 32 minutes per game. That’s a dramatic improvement over the meager 11.6 points per contest he posted over the Kings’ first nine games.
Brooks has seen a steady increase in production as well. As a starter, he’s scoring 11.8 points in 25.8 minutes per game, nearly double the 6.3 points he averaged as a reserve. But what’s more impressive about 27-year-old’s play has been his shooting numbers. They’ve skyrocketed through the roof since the Kings shuffled their lineup.
Since his insertion into the starting lineup, Brooks has been lights out and he’s scored efficiently. He’s shot 73.1 percent from the field and 61.5 percent from beyond the arc. And his true shooting and effective field goal percentages currently jump out at 87.4 and 88.5 percent, respectively.
“It doesn’t matter if he has the ball or not,” Evans said of Brooks. “He just wants to win.
“We’re on the same page,” Evans added. “If he’s hot, he’s bringing the ball up. I’m hot, I’ll bring the ball up. He does a good job of spotting up and shooting open shots, so that’s good for us.”
Brooks’ veteran know-how has also been a plus. After the Kings traded Beno Udrih before the 2010 draft, the Kings lost an element of experience in their backcourt. Isaiah Thomas and Jimmer Fredette have both played well this season, but their one year in the league doesn’t compare to Brooks’ five, which also includes playoff experience.
“Aaron, he’s a calm guy,” Evans said. “He just goes out there and plays.”
The Kings new backcourt has played just a handful of games and a 2-2 record is just a small sample. But after the alternative won just two of its first nine, the Brooks/Evans tandem looks like it has a promising future.
Statistical support provided by NBA.com.