You know what's hard? Having a monster season in the NBA when you're just a 19-year-old kid with no pro experience. And you know what's even harder? Following it up with another big year. That's the challenge facing the young leader of the Sacramento Kings, so let's see if he's up to it. Will Tyreke Evans survive the sophomore slump?
Evans took home a well-deserved NBA Rookie of the Year award last season, averaging 20.1 points per game for a young Kings team in need of a go-to scorer. Evans surpassed all expectations by blossoming into an NBA star from day one — in fact, with an average 20-plus points, five-plus assists and five-plus rebounds in his rookie season, he joined an exclusive club alongside only LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson. Not too shabby.
But if you're expecting Evans to keep it up this coming season, you'd better be on the lookout for red flags. There are three big ones:
1. The small matter of a reckless driving arrest earlier this summer. Evans was pulled over doing 130 miles per hour on a California highway, taken to court and pled no contest. He's been sentenced to informal probation by the state and suspended for one game by the NBA. There's a harsh reminder that he's still just a kid and doesn't yet have his head on straight — probably not the guy you want leading your charge toward playoff contention.
2. Aside from the character questions, Evans' game is relatively simple. He's not a deadly jump shooter (at least not yet, anyway), he's not the most polished passer, and his game mostly consists of using his energy and his toughness to drive to the basket and post up weaker players. It probably won't take long before opposing defenses figure him out and learn to game plan against him — put a physical defender on him, keep him from getting to the hole, and force him to make tough shots to earn his points. He's not yet good enough to consistently beat good defensive teams.
3. At the moment, all we've seen from Evans are numbers. He can get his points at will, he can pile up rebounds and assists, but what can he do when his team needs meaningful numbers? Will he be able to rack up the stats when teams are keying on him every night? Will he be able to lead a competitive Western Conference team, rather than simply scoring at will as a big-fish, small-pond type of player? That's a lot to ask of the young Memphis Tigers product.
But you know what? Let's throw out all the red flags, forget rhyme and reason, and play on a hunch. Tyreke Evans looks like a superstar in the making.
He has the physical gifts to be an umpteen-time All-Star in this league. He's not LeBron, but he's a poor man's decent imitation of King James. He can dominate with the ball in his hands, he can take over games, he can attack the basket and get his points whenever he needs them. He has everything he needs to achieve greatness — he just needs to keep learning and keep growing.
Look at the list of NBA Rookies of the Year in the past decade. Derrick Rose. Kevin Durant. Brandon Roy. Chris Paul. Not a bust in the lot of them. Evans is in that mold — he showed from day one that he had the talent to be the best, and he hasn't disappointed yet.
Next season, Evans will build on having another year of experience under his belt. He'll take everything he's achieved so far and use it as motivation. He's good, but now he can get even better.
He'll go into the gym and take hundreds of jumpers. He'll work with his promising young teammates — Carl Landry, Omri Casspi, and the rookie DeMarcus Cousins — on building this Sacramento squad into something better.
He'll take his game to the next level. He has to. He's got too much talent to let it go to waste.
There are all the reasons in the world to think Tyreke Evans will slip this season. But he's simply going to brush them all off and play. He might surprise you.
NESN.com will analyze 25 key NBA questions this September.
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Sept. 13: Will Derrick Rose reach superstar status?
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