How Tyreke Evans can get his groove back. Maybe.

7 Comments

This is kind of a make or break year for the former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans.

His rookie year his penetration and scoring at the rim had him scoring 20.1 points plus adding 5.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. Monster numbers for a rookie. With some growth you could see the guy the Kings could help build a franchise around.

But that growth never came. He never developed a jump shot and that has let teams take away his driving angles. He never developed as a passer beyond the ability to hit the first, obvious looks. He never developed into more than a guy who could score if he got into the lane.

Next summer Evans will be a restricted free agent (there is no way the Kings will lock him up with an extension) and what happens to him and what he makes will depend on if he can make the leap this year. Over at Sports Illustrated, Zach Lowe does a fantastic job breaking down Evans, his overuse of the spin move and what he has to do from here forward.

Improve the jump shot. This is just about work and repetition, and the Kings have confidence Evans is putting that work in this summer. Evans is never going to be Stephen Curry, but if he reconstructs his leg-kicking mess into even an average jumper, those spins will be easier, the passing lanes more obvious. He’s never going to be Rondo or Paul, either, but making those tricky passes just a bit less tricky can help Evans and the Kings win a few more possessions here and there.

• Continue moving Evans off the ball. The transition is already well under way, thanks to the emergence of Isaiah Thomas as a legitimate offensive point guard. Smart says Evans came to him without prodding midway through last season and offered to play off the ball more; he attempted 61 shots off of cuts in 63 games last season, compared to just 29 such shots in 57 games in 2010-11, per Synergy. And he was good at it! Evans shot 42-of-61 (69 percent) off of cuts and gradually developed a sense of when to cut back-door or loop toward the foul line when his defender helped far off of him or simply ignored him. A bonus: When Evans flashes to the foul line like that, he can see most of the floor as he cuts, meaning he is ready to throw the proper pass upon making the catch. Again: easier is better.

This is not a case of ego run amok or a guy that doesn’t care — Evans wants to get better, he works on his shot and his game. But he hasn’t yet taken the right path. With a jumper things open up and he can do more than just score. He wants to, but the mentality needs to tweak to go with the shot.

It’s something to watch. The Kings are rebuilding with DeMarcus Cousins in the paint. We’ll see next season if Evans is part of the mix.