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Friday, July 10, 2009
Tyreke Evans' Maiden Voyage


Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

Tyreke Evans did a lot of impressive stuff Friday afternoon in his debut as the Sacramento Kings' point guard. On the game's very first possession, he dished the ball off to the weak side, then rumbled to the block where he backed in a smaller, hapless Sean Singletary, who was whistled for a foul.

Tyreke Evans Tyreke Evans: A different kind of point guard.
(Garrett Ellwood/NBA via Getty Images)

The play call wasn't a coincidence. When the Kings had Evans and some of the other top names come in for their point guard workout, they had the prospects play 2-on-2 inside of 15 feet. Evans' dominance that day gave the Kings a glimpse of how they could use a big, strong point guard to bolster a team that got pushed around last season. 

Evans is nothing if not assertive. When matched up against the likes of Singletary -- and even 6-4 Andre Owens -- Evans repeatedly dished the ball off, darted to the post, then waited for entry pass against a helpless defender. 

When Evans wasn't pushing opposing guards around on the block, he was tripping up defenders with his nasty crossover and getting to the rack.

"He can get into the paint whenever he wants," Kings head coach Paul Westphal said. "I like the way he attacks."

Making Evans a point guard has its virtues, because there are worse places for the ball to be on a Kings' offensive possession than in his hands. Evans is an incredible one-on-one player, something he demonstrated repeatedly Friday against the Pistons in both teams' first Summer League game. The rookie finished with 15 points on 4-10 shooting from the field and 7-10 from the stripe. 

As good as Evans was off the dribble for himself, he rarely looked to create for others. Not once did Evans complete a play for a teammate, something that should concern anyone with a vested interest in the Evans experiment at the point. A couple of times he lobbed passes into traffic, but only if his path to the basket was stymied -- and he failed on virtually every one of those attempts. Evans finished with four turnovers, and his only two assists came on simple entry passes into the post. 

"Hey, let us put some offense in before you say he can't do that," Westphal said, when asked if Evans truly had the instincts to run point. "He's just scratching the surface of what he can do. I think once he gets comfortable with the system and his teammates -- and they get comfortable with him -- there will be a lot of things he can do." 

Westphal might have a point, but what kind of system can the Kings run if there's no legitimate playmaker on the floor who can move the ball with confidence? Kevin Martin is an offensive efficiency machine (greater than 60% true shooting percentage each of the past four seasons), but like Evans, he's best as a one-on-one scorer who would benefit greatly from a pure point who knows how to find a scorer.

Look at the Kings' individual assist rates over the past few seasons, and you'll find that, apart from beleagured point guard Beno Udrih, the team's best distributors were Brad Miller and John Salmons. Spencer Hawes might be a high post threat as a shooter, but there's not much evidence that any semblance of an offense could be run through him. Jason Thompson? Andres Nocioni? Anyone? 

It's entirely possible that Evans' uncanny instincts will allow him to find his inner distributor. Maybe he'll develop the sort of skills that aren't showcased in 2-on-2 workouts. That metamorphosis would be a blessing for Sacramento, but it would also compromise some of what makes Tyreke Evans...Tyreke Evans -- the biggest, strongest, most devastating one-on-one guard in this year's draft class.

There were faint rumors that the Kings might get involoved in the Hedo Turkoglu chase, and there probably wasn't a team in more desperate need of Turkoglu's services as a point forward than the Kings. With their fortunes wed to the extremely talented, but self-sufficient, Evans at the point, the Kings might have to get their playmaking from someone else.