Top 50: Tyreke Evans, no. 49

by Rudy Raya / @rudy_raya

“Wait, Who? What? Why? Wow,” was my initial reaction.

Tyreke Evans isn’t supposed to be here. Or at least not yet. Not this early in his career. No. 13 is No. 49 at the age of 23? That can’t be right, can it? There must be an error, or a mistake, a typo or something else that could explain this phenomenon.

Is he really the worst of the best—or best of the worst—in the NBA?

There’s no way. Not Tyreke. Has his career already come to this?

When he first came into the League, he made you take notice. At 6-6, 220 pounds, Evans had a sizable frame, and the makings of an unstoppable point guard. He was big, strong, fast and had the ability to take over games. He drove with aggression, exploded to the rim and finished with finesse.

He looked like he was going to be the Penny Hardaway reincarnate, dominating his puny peers with size and skill.

With averages of 20-5-5 in his first season, Evans was among a class of NBA greats like Oscar Robertson, LeBron James and Michael Jordan. He made a team of less-than-stellar players exciting and competitive on the way to capturing the Rookie of the Year award.

Most importantly, he gave the people in Sacramento a reason to watch again.

But things have changed quite a bit since then. He went from looking like a potential superstar to a player just trying to find his role on the team. Although he has shown flashes of being a promising talent, his stats have gradually declined each season.

Inconsistencies and poor decision-making have plagued Evans, leading to a high number of turnovers and dismal performances.

In his defense, his supporting cast has never been the most reliable bunch. He’s also been battling injuries and a lingering case of plantar fasciitis for the last two seasons.

The coaching changes haven’t been the smoothest transitions, either, for Evans. Head coach Keith Smart has shown a great deal of confidence in Tyreke, but where he fits into the grand scheme of things has yet to be seen.

The Goldilocks of off-guards has played at almost every position, but he just can’t seem to find the right fit. Evans is too big to keep up with little guys, he’s too small to play small forward, and his inconsistent jump shot makes him less than effective as a shooting guard.

His strengths have started to become weaknesses, and instead of ‘Reke-ing havoc, parts of his game have simply began to reek.

He flourishes on fast breaks and in one-on-one situations. Evans handles the ball with exceptional speed and skill, baiting the defender into over-committing and then losing him in a flurry of stutter steps and crossovers before blowing right past him.

While that style of play makes him extremely dangerous, it has made his game quite one-dimensional. All the opposing team needs to do is stack the paint with defenders and Evans’ efficiency dips significantly.

The defense salivates at the very thought of him forcing a pass or settling for a contested shot.

The signing of veteran point guard Aaron Brooks and the surprising production last year from Isaiah Thomas may be a sign that the team has different plans for implementing the explosive Evans.

He can definitely be an impressive player and return to his old form, but make no mistake: This is DeMarcus Cousins’ team now.

While Evans has floundered the past two years, Cousins has taken full advantage of his opportunities, stepped up and seized control of the team. In just two seasons as a Sacramento King, he has cemented himself as a burgeoning force in the NBA.

Since his very first year, Evans has yet to do anything really remarkable in his NBA career. The Kings have finished near the bottom of the League for the past three seasons and he hasn’t been able to make any serious progress toward becoming an elite player.

Winning Rookie of the Year was a nice accomplishment, but in the long-term it means nothing. If anything it’s been less of an honor and more of a hindrance for Evans. It’s like saying, “Hey, you were the best rookie in the NBA, here’s this plaque and a list of expectations that you have to live up to. Good luck and don’t blow it!”

He’s simply been in a constant digression since then. The answer to Evans’ problem isn’t a mystery: He needs to step up, and he needs to improve his shooting. Pull-ups, fadeaways, and especially three-pointers are all parts of his game that could use renovation. He has a lot to prove this season, playing in the fourth and final year of his contract with the Kings. And whether or not his future remains in Sacramento, Evans’ performance this season will largely dictate the direction that the rest of his career will follow.

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2012
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Greg Monroe Pistons C 8
49 Tyreke Evans Kings PG 14

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’12-13 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Maurice Bobb, Rodger Bohn, Brendan Bowers, Franklyn Calle, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Adam Figman, Eldon Khorshidi, Eddie Maisonet III, Ryne Nelson, Ben Osborne, Allen Powell II, Sam Rubenstein, Jonathan Santiago, Abe Schwadron, Leo Sepkowitz, Dave Spahn, Ben Taylor, Tzvi Twersky, Peter Walsh, Tracy Weissenberg, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Dave Zirin.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.