Kings should get the point with Tyreke

Sacramento Kings' Tyreke Evans (R) drives the ball to the basket past the defense of Cleveland Cavaliers' Ramon Sessions (L) during the first half of NBA basketball action in Cleveland, October 30, 2010. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Open up the Sunday paper and you’ll see another article by Ailene Voisin trying to convince you that Tyreke Evans isn’t a point guard.

Luckily, the Sacramento Bee properly labeled this column as “Opinion” and nothing else.

Because that’s what it is. It’s her opinion on a player she’s been less than kind too over his brief career. The reasoning in her piece is simple: the Kings are trying to trade for a point guard so the idea that Tyreke IS a point guard has clearly run its course. However, I’m wondering if that’s just a matter of circumstance in the league than it is an indictment on what Tyreke is or can be.

The two separate guard positions are in very different places in terms of roles, depth and talent in the NBA right now. While the point guard position has hit an age of enlightenment that would have Voltaire pushing the tempo and looking to find the open man, the shooting guard position is sort of on shaky ground. Looking at the past two drafts, there are roughly 14 point guards who are easily on the track of being starters very soon in their respective careers. However, the shooting guards are having a hard time replenishing what was once a deep position.

So if you have a guard like Tyreke Evans who can be effective at both guard spots, you’re probably going to go after the position easiest to obtain without giving up a multitude of assets. That’s the luxury of having Tyreke Evans on your side of the equation. He gives you the versatility to go out and find whatever is easier to acquire. And since there is a plethora of point guards, in contrast to a dearth of shooting guards, it seems natural you would try to take advantage of the supply and demand theory with filling out your roster.

I don’t think it makes Tyreke any less of a point guard to go out and find a point guard to put next to him. It just means you’re taking advantage of the current market.

Yes, Tyreke has his limitations on the court. He’s not strong going to his left hand, especially in a pick-and-roll situation. In fact, he has trouble in the pick-and-roll period because he tends to go side-to-side instead of curling off of the screen. He also isn’t very good at finding the roll man over the top. It’s not that he can’t do it; he just seems to hesitate. And when you hesitate at this level, the defense is able to recover and make your offense look stagnant.

Tyreke actually is pretty good at being a point guard. Since he’s so good at breaking his man down with the dribble, defenses have to collapse unless they’re willing to play Russian Roulette with him making a layup. When they do clamp down, he excels at kicking it to the wing or corner for wide-open shots. The problem is his teammates haven’t been knocking them down consistently since his first game.

The ball movement could be much better with Evans on the floor, but I wouldn’t say it’s because he’s a ball hog by any means. His job is to carry the load, create for himself and try to cause a little chaos out there. If anything, he listens to his coach too much on the court, instead of figuring things out for himself. That doesn’t show signs of someone being a malcontent by any means. It just shows he’s too much of a follower and not enough of a leader at this point in his career.

The best way to utilize Evans on the court is to play him at the point, surround him with a low post threat, a big that can shoot the mid-range/elbow jumper and two shooters that will capitalize on the open looks he can create. But playing him at the point is definitely the way to go.

Take a look at the numbers by position for Tyreke from Queen City Hoops:

While the Kings haven’t been good with Reke on or off the court, they do seem to be struggling with efficiency when he’s in the game. But looking at the separation of where he’s playing on the floor shows there might be a problem in how he’s being used.

Evans has seen time at the 1, 2, and 3 positions. The Kings were killed in the brief time he played the small forward position and when he’s playing the 2, the Kings just can’t seem to get a lot going. But when he plays point guard, the Kings are outplaying their opponents. Even though it’s a small sample size, this team projects to be very good in Pythagorean Record.

Why is it that this team excels so well when Evans is running the show?

Matchups.

Last year proved that Tyreke is virtually unguardable for most point guards in the NBA. In fact, it was rare an opposing point guard would stay matched up with him for extended stints on the court. Instead, the team’s best perimeter defender would usually switch out on Evans, and unless it was Shane Battier or Nicolas Batum, Evans still usually had the speed advantage. In turn, the Kings’ shooting guard or small forward benefitted from getting a smaller opponent matched up against them.

The NBA is all about finding mismatches and exploiting them until the other team adjusts. And with Tyreke bullying everybody on the perimeter because you’ve gone with a big lineup, you get that luxury of having mismatches in your favor. The downside to this is while Evans is still learning how to do certain things a NBA point guard has to do, the offense can become stagnant, which can lead to frustration.

If guys knock down shots when give the opportunity, this stagnation seems to dissipate. Instead, the Kings are forcing Luther Head out there for defensive purposes and essentially playing 4-on-5 basketball when they’re on offense.

If the Kings end up being able to get a very talented point guard to go along with Tyreke, it doesn’t mean the experiment failed by any means. It just means there was a better option to pick up a point than there was to try to acquire a wing scorer. Someone like Richard Hamilton would actually be the perfect complement to Reke on the court. He moves well without the ball, can knock down open jumpers and helps create a big backcourt with Evans. Unfortunately, his contract runs through 2013 at a price tag of $12.5 million per season.

Ultimately, the Kings need talent. They have lots of potential with various guys at different positions. But they certainly don’t have the luxury of winning with that potential right now, as we’ve seen since they returned from their season-opening road trip. If you can acquire more talent by getting a point guard for a cheaper/easier price than what it would take to bring in a dynamic scoring wing player, then you do it.

But it’s unfair to label a second-year player as a failed experiment when the numbers and situation say the opposite.

Opinions are fun and can sometimes be correct, but facts are always right.

And right now, the fact is Tyreke should be this team’s point guard.

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