Versatile Tyreke Evans 'not even close to his ceiling'

Versatile Tyreke Evans not even close to his ceiling

July 11, 2013

Tyreke Evans had plenty of reason to be overly confident during his smashing 2009-10 debut season with the Sacramento Kings. En route to easily capturing the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award, Evans joined an exclusive four-man club by averaging 20 points, five rebounds and five assists. The only other players to register those numbers as NBA rookies? All-time greats Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James.

Still, one memory that stands out most for Bryan Gates – a Sacramento assistant coach during Evans’ rookie year, prior to joining New Orleans – is of Evans attentively watching film that plainly displayed some of his defensive mistakes.

“He’d walk in the room, look at our video coordinator, Todd Purves, and (good-naturedly) say, ‘OK, how many (critiqued plays) am I on?’ ” Gates remembered, smiling. “Being as highly touted as he was as a rookie, Tyreke really embraced getting better and learning. I’m a big fan of Tyreke as a person. I liked him more as a person than a player, and he’s a really good player.”

Indeed, over the past four seasons, Evans has been at the top of every NBA team’s defensive scouting report vs. Sacramento. The versatile 6-foot-6, 220-pounder has a career scoring average of 17.5 points, to go with 4.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists.

“He’s one of those guys who can put up 30 points on any given night,” said Jon Brockman, a fellow Sacramento rookie in 2009-10 and now a Pelicans summer-leaguer. “He can get hot, and his finishing around the hoop is amazing. It’s fun to watch, but frustrating to play against. He’s a great athlete and a great player.”

The burly 6-foot-7, 255-pound power forward pauses briefly, before adding with a mischievous grin, “It was fun setting screens for him.”

From their one season together, Gates and Brockman remember Evans as a quiet 19-year-old who didn’t talk much but was a consistent performer, particularly for a rookie.

“The year I was with him, he never complained about anything, whether it was travel, hotels, too many practices,” Gates said. “He did what we asked of him. But one of the things he can really improve on is his communication on the floor. I think that will come with confidence as the years go on. But he’s the type of guy who comes to work. He really wants to be good.”

“He’s quiet, but he’s a good teammate,” Brockman said. “He opens up more to his teammates (than others), but he’s not a guy who’s always loud all the time. A lot of times he just lets his game speak for him, which I really respect.”

Like several members of the Pelicans’ burgeoning core group, Evans has notable NBA experience (257 career games), but has not even entered his prime. After his breakthrough rookie season, the Philadelphia native’s numbers have gradually dropped, but that’s been due to other Kings such as DeMarcus Cousins stepping into larger roles around him. A below-average perimeter shooter, the University of Memphis product provided a positive sign last season by connecting on a career-best 33.8 percent from three-point range. If he can continue to improve in that category, it will be even tougher for opponents to keep him from scoring or drawing fouls on his patented drives to the rim.

“There are not a lot of guys who can do what he does,” Gates said of Evans’ one-on-one offensive ability and knack for creating his own shot. “But he knows he still has to get better and can still learn. He knows he’s not even close to his ceiling or maximum potential. We’re fortunate to get him.”