Let’s Not Decide the Rookie of the Year Race Just Yet…

It’s easy to get caught up in hype.

Really easy.

The majority of us were caught up in the Ricky Rubio hype. Many people are caught up in Anthony Randolph hype until they actually watch him have to make a basketball decision. And we all cashed in our chips with LeBron James before he actually even did anything on an NBA court.

But there’s a difference in losing out to someone with hype and flat out being disrespected and ignored. And that’s what I feel Tyreke Evans is being right now – disrespected and ignored.

This was the headline on ESPN.com’s NBA page tonight for their Daily Dime chat:

Am I the only one that found something insulting there?

It’s not that I blame ESPN.com either. They’re promoting the matchup between Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings, two phenomenal point guard talents. But the thing is that it’s not just this one site overlooking what Tyreke Evans has done in his first 15 games on the court (remember, he sat one out). It’s EVERYBODY outside of Sacramento seeing Brandon Jennings dollar signs in their eyes while throwing out exasperating accusations that Evans isn’t a point guard.

Not only that but he’s also being flat out ignored for Rookie of the Year honors during the early part of this season and that’s wrong.

Tyreke Evans has been the better player between the two so far this year. Is it close? Absolutely. But is it in question either? I don’t think so.

Jennings gets more highlights for sure and sometimes that’s what it takes to win this award. It happened in 2001 when Mike Miller beat out Marc Jackson 2003 when Amare Stoudemire beat out Yao Ming for the award. And yes, his 55-point game is still the best performance of the year if you forget the fact that the majority of his points in the second half came off of open jump shots from the nonexistent Warriors defense or Mikki Moore. It was the equivalent of putting up good scoring numbers at a shoot around.

But when you look at the numbers, the impact of the records for each team, and the overall play, Tyreke Evans is more the favorite when you put it all together (or at least he should be).

Looking at the numbers, here are the statistical advantages that Jennings has over ‘Reke:

– 21.8 points per game to Evans’ 18.8 per contest.
– 5.7 assists per game to Evans’ 4.7 passes for scores every game.
– 50% three-point shooting to Evans’ 32.3%.

Now, here are the areas that Evans excels over Jennings:

– 44.6% from the field compared to Jennings’ 42.8%.
– 46.5% on two-point shots compared to 41.5% for Jennings.
– 5.0 rebounds per game to Jennings’ 4.0 per contest.
– 1.33 steals per game to Jennings’ 1.18 thefts per night.
– 79% from the free throw line to Jennings’ 77.4%.
– Evans gets to the line 5.4 times per game with Jennings getting there 4.4 times per game.
– 3.2 turnovers per game compared to Jennings’ 3.31.
– And Tyreke Evans actually plays pretty good defense against multiple positions while Jennings plays adequate at best defense while gambling in the passing lanes and reaching more than Monta Ellis.

As for the overall play on offense (because there shouldn’t be a debate that Evans is by far the superior defender), I think the Tyreke Evans style of attacking a defense is much more valuable in the long-term than what Jennings does.

Jennings relies on making a lot of jump shots. According to Hoopdata.com, BJ has 26.4% of his field goal attempts at the rim (he’s making 45% of them). That means that three quarters of his shots are primarily jumpers. 154 of his 284 shots have come from 16 feet or farther out. He doesn’t mind settling for the jumper because his shot is falling at a very impressive rate so far. Actually, let me rephrase that – his three-point shot is falling. The 50% from threes is very incredible but the 40% he’s making on his long two-point jumpers is not so impressive. Neither is the 33% he’s making on his shots from 10-15 feet.

When you compare that with Tyreke Evans, Evans seems to be putting more pressure on the defense. 50.8% of Evans’ shots come at the rim and he’s making 55% of those shots at the rim. When you factor in his struggles with finishing in the first five games, he’s been extremely efficient in finishing around the basket since the team started winning. He’s also shooting better on his long range two-pointers 44%.

Now, I’m no basketball expert but I pretend to be one when I coach junior varsity high school basketball. If you’re taking the majority of your shots around the rim then you’re putting more pressure on the defense. You’re heightening the chances that their bigs get in foul trouble rather than letting them off the hook with long-range jumpers. Now, even though Jennings scoring has been better, I don’t think a measly three points per game means more than the way Evans is scoring.

When it comes to the impact on their team and the way they’ve played, Evans is also the winner in this category. The Bucks were a 34-win team last year in a season in which they missed a lot of Michael Redd and a lot of Andrew Bogut (missed a combined 95 games). The Kings were a 17-win team in which they missed Kevin Martin for 31 games. Clearly, the Bucks were a better situation heading into this season. Sure, they’ve already battled the injury bug with Andrew Bogut missing six games and Michael Redd missing 11 of them. But I don’t think that’s any worse than the Kings missing Kevin Martin for 11 and Francisco Garcia for all 16.

So far this season the Kings are 8-8 despite their injuries and the Bucks are 9-7 despite their injuries. The Kings have wins over Memphis, Utah (road), Golden State, OKC, Houston, New York, New Jersey and New Orleans. The Bucks wins have come against Detroit, Minnesota (road), New York, Denver, Golden State, New Jersey, Charlotte, Memphis (road) and Chicago. There isn’t much of a difference in the quality of wins. So you can’t really say that the Bucks wins are more impressive than the Kings wins.

Now, I realize that a lot of this sounds petty and it probably is. Is there anything wrong with people loving Brandon Jennings and wanting to shower him with celebratory hardware? Absolutely not. I love Brandon Jennings as well. I think he’s really fun to watch when he doesn’t need to be bailed out by Luke Ridnour off the bench (okay that definitely WAS petty of me). But I also have watched Tyreke Evans every night too and can safely say he’s been just as good on offense as Jennings and a lot better on defense.

And finally, even though it’s hard to question Brandon Jennings superiority in multimedia fun with this picture

You also can’t ignore the free-styling multimedia spectacular that ‘Reke showed as well:

I’m not asking you to give the hardware to Tyreke Evans today. Nobody deserves it yet. But don’t give it to Brandon Jennings now because of a hot start, ignore his cool off period against tougher defensive competition and close this award race for the rest of a long season. Tyreke Evans has been just as special and just as fun to watch.


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