Whether Tyreke Evans plays Wednesday night in the Sacramento Kings’ next game against the Toronto Raptors remains to be seen. The Kings starting shooting guard has missed the last two contests after bruising his left knee almost a week ago against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
But when he does return, does Keith Smart plan on increasing the fourth-year guard’s playing time?
“I would like to get that up – yes,” Smart said after Thursday practice last week. “But I also want to make sure that he’s productive in those minutes.”
In his last five games, Evans had produced at a level comparable to his award-winning rookie season. Averaging 21 points, 4.8 assists, 5.4 rebounds and posting a 63.2 true-shooting percentage, he was the Kings’ most consistent presence on offense. Evans managed to do all of this in just a shade under 33 minutes a game.
“When I’m out there, I just try to play with energy,” Evans said after Wednesday practice last week. “I might make a couple of mistakes, but I don’t think nobody’s perfect. I’m out there working hard every chance I get.”
Common sense would suggest that the Kings would be much better off if he played an extra six or seven minutes a contest. But Smart believes playing a player for minutes’ sake doesn’t always glean the best results.
The Kings coach referred to times within a contest he called ”dead minutes”, where a player isn’t producing anything valuable on both ends of the floor. Smart would like to limit those instances of ineffective playing time with his 23-year-old guard.
“There are moments in a game – maybe five minutes or so in a game where you do nothing,” Smart said. “You don’t get a rebound. You don’t get a deflection. You don’t get a steal. You don’t get a shot. Just several minutes in a game where you’re just going up and down the floor.”
Adjusting Evans’ statistics over his last five games to 40 minutes per contest suggest his production would increase. The Kings starting two-guard’s scoring, passing and rebounding project to 25.6 points, 5.9 assists and 6.6 boards per game.
However, Smart isn’t looking to have Evans cross the 40-minute threshold on a nightly basis. The Kings coach would ideally like to get the former Rookie of the Year’s playing time up to the 35 to 36 minute mark. Smart cites the Kings’ guard depth off the bench as a reason to restrict Evans’ playing time.
“Some nights, Marcus Thornton may be playing well at the two a little bit,” the Kings coach said.
But, Smart knows there will be nights when he needs Evans to play more than 35 to 36 minutes a contest. He just wants to be certain that Evans’ efforts don’t go wasted.
“I wanna make sure he can play at a high level,” Smart said. “A high octane level, all the time on both sides of the ball. And then some nights, his minutes will increase in those moments.”