Firstly for all you GSOMers I want to remind you I am a huge Warriors fan and I think Curry is deserving of the Rookie of the Year, and I clearly want him to win it. However the problem is we just can't argue with a player who has been the equal of Steph "statistically" throughout and better for a 3rd of the season outright.
However this post is as much about the present as it is the future, so read on...
Why Tyreke Evans is the Rookie of the Year
I feel our argument as Golden State fans has centered around what we have seen from Steph in the last few months, and those months have been nothing short of incredible.
However we cannot make the assumption that because he's doing all this now, he would have been doing this in November, December and January had Nelson allocated him the ball-handling responsibilities and played him more.
What we know:
Judging the season as a whole, Tyreke has the better stats -
I have been inclined to believe that actually this is due to Tyreke having the ball more and this is partly true
Tyreke Evans per game stats - 20.1 points | 7.4/16.2 FG (45.8%) | 5.3 rebounds | 5.8 assists | 25.5% 3pt FG
Stephen Curry per game stats - 17.5 points | 6.6/14.3 FG (46.2%) | 4.5 rebounds | 5.9 assists | 43.7% 3pt FG
It could be argued that if Steph takes the extra 2 shots per game that Tyreke gets, that he ends up with 19.5 - 20.5 PPG. This would nullify the extra PPG Tyreke gets. This is what has happened over the last couple of months. In Janurary Curry took 15.1 shots and ended up with 19.1 points, in February he took 17.5 shots and got 21.5 points, March, 16.4 shots, 19.8 points. All this culminated in April where Monta missed all but 2 games and Curry played like the m an scoring 26.5 points on 20.3 shots.
This does suggest that if Curry had been the man all season he would equal Tyreke statistically (note Curry averaged roughly 5.1 rebounds over those 4 months, giving him the legendary 20-5-5 during that period that a ridiculous weight has been placed on).
However we must remember that Curry has been rewarded by the league for being the best rookie in the West for 4 months during the season, its not like he is being ignored. Its just that even with those performances he wasn't able to replicate what Tyreke did off the bat and consistently throughout the entire season. While Curry was getting acclimated with the game at NBA level, Tyreke was on a tear and leading Sacramento to a 14-17 start.
Part of the reason that Steph didn't get these numbers early in the season is clearly due to Don Nelson playing Monta Ellis as the main PG, but also its because Steph worked at his game during the season and was a different player come January. There's no guarantee that if circumstances had been different in the first 2 months and he'd been the main ball handler, that he'd be able to get the same numbers he got later in the season.
Potentially his season and career may be the better for the fact he wasn't given everything on a plate over the first 2 months. We've seen that he worked at his game and became the better player for it whereas Evans has been the same player all season.
Remember the Rookie of the Year is not an award given to who is playing the best by the end of the year, rather it is given to whoever has had the best overall year.
I'm sure if we were in the situation where we had the rookie with the better statistics overall and who had been consistent throughout we'd be going all out supporting him.
HOWEVER NONE OF THIS IS TO SAY THAT WHOEVER WINS THE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR HAS SHOWN THEY ARE THE BETTER PLAYER
Why Stephen Curry has proved he is right now, and will in the future, be the better player
Evans will be unstoppable once he learns how to shoot - How many times have we read on a draft profile of a forward or a center "he needs to improve his footwork and add some postmoves to his repertoire". It always annoys me that its just expected that any young big will add some post moves when they get in the NBA, as if as soon as they shake David Stern's hand at the Draft they get the ability. But how man big guys are actually great in the post or more importantly how many seem to develop a great post repertoire years into their NBA career? Most young bigs seem to be afraid to try moves in the post because in the NBA they are playing against players who can match their athleticiscm and size, which never happened in the NCAA.
The same can be said for the idea that any young guard with a poor shot will be able to improve it dramatically to become a good shooter just because their now in the NBA. Tyreke is not a good shooter, witness 25.5% from 3, there's no divine right for him to end up with a good J just because he is a good young guard. He's probably been playing ball for most of his life (say 15 years), is there any reason that he is going to become a great jump shooter from now on after all the practice he must have put in to become the quality player he is now. Look at Lebron, even now, 7 years into his NBA career, defences still hope that they can force him to shoot the jump shot. Lebron appears to be a passable shooter because defenders sag off him so much due to his speed and passing ability, therefore most of the looks he gets are given to him, playing into the defences hands. I'd say Lebrons current shooting ability is about the ceiling for Tyreke's jump shot which in my mind means he will never be more than a player that other teams set up their defence to encourage them to shoot.
Evans is as good at passing as Stephen Curry because they are averaging the same number of assists - Just because he averages the same number of assists as Curry doesn't mean he's getting them the same way and thus is the same kind of facilitator. When I see Evans I see a player who gets into the lane whenever he wants and will pass when all options are shut off around him. John Hollinger in his article The NBA's Biggest Ball Hogs says this: (Note the main text shouldn't be in CAPS or italics, it just won't turn off)
"Evans plays point guard much of the time and thus has a decent assist ratio, but that masks his major weakness as a playmaker: He thinks sequentially. As in, "First, I'll look for my shot; only when I am cut off, I'll look to see what's going on around me." As a result he might be one of the most frustrating teammates in the league"
Monta Ellis averages 5.5 assists and no-one would call him a good passer. His assist number follow the same principle, drive drive drive and if nothings on pass to someone who's open. This means they both get their assists mainly due to the frequency with which they have the ball, as opposed to showing natural playmaking ability.
Tyreke has been playing as the primary ball handler and playmaker for Sacramento and yet has ended up averaging 5.8 assists which isn't what you'd expect from a good playmaker. Curry on the other hand has been averaging 7.3, 7.3 and 8.1 assists in the last 3 months of the season in which he has been the main playmaker. Personally this is what I want from my Point Guard and those assist averages suggest that we can expect Curry to average at least 8 assists per game next season.
Furthermore Curry averaged his 5.9 assists per game whilst having a usage rate of 20.9. Evans on the other hand averaged 5.8 assists per game, with a usage rate of 25.4. So Evans had 25% more possessions, but less assists, suggesting Curry is the more natural passer.
Evans can't really be called a point guard or even a point forward until passing becomes as big a part of his game as his slashing does. I understand he was on a poor team where the coaches designated him as the man but still, Golden State mainly runs a system of ISO's with the odd pick and roll, yet Curry found the open man regularly even though few plays were run.
Also it's been noted that Evans is two years younger, without significant experience at the point before heading into the NBA. However Curry also didn't get much experience at the point for Davidson. Thus his playmaking is all the more surprising and there's no inherent reason why Evans will get to this level after another year playing the point.
On your Championship team who would you rather have as the main guy - Tyreke's passing abilities makes me question whether he can ever be the best player on a championship team as he doesn't involve his team-mates nearly enough for a primary ball handler. Sacramento has become the Tyreke show, and this makes me wonder whether his stats can actually improve as much as people think. This year he has had more freedom to get his own than he may ever have in the future. Will he ever be in a position again where he has such poor team-mates that whatever shot he can make for himself will probably be better than a different shot from another player. Thus when/if Sacramento become a playoff team will he be able to lead them to a championship as a slasher without significant playmaking abilities. (Note the main text shouldn't be in CAPS or italics, it just won't turn off)
But Evans is averaging 20-5-5 - I take issue with the 20-5-5 arbitrary grouping that seems to have elevated Evans rookie year to a status it never deserved to be. Now his stats are really impressive. 20.1 points, how many rookies do that? 6 assists, pretty good. 5.3 rebounds, pretty good for a point guard, though is it really that great for a 6 ft 6 guard/forward. Nonetheless no matter how he gets those numbers they are damn impressive, especially for a rookie and suggests all areas of his statistical game are solid and have room for growth. My issue with the 20-5-5 'legend' is that to me if he averages 19.9 points of 4.9 rebounds, he has still had the same sick rookie season. I don't care about that .1 rebound or point. Witness the shameless pursuit of the numbers in his penultimate game, by pursuing the stat the team lost from a promising winning position. What was the point of that. His rookie season by the end turned into the pursuit of a group of numbers rather than a quest to improve himself as a player (Goal Accomplished). However the only reason that he was in a position to get those stats by the end of the season, was because his natural game at the start of the season put him near those numbers.
Also a quick look at Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan's 20-5-5 rookie seasons (thanks to Atma Brother ONE for the numbers he put on a different post):
Oscar Robertson (rookie 1960-1961): 30.5 ppg (55.5% TS), 10.1 rpg, 9.7 apg (steals weren’t recorded back then)
Michael Jordan (rookie 1984-1985): 28.2ppg (59.2% TS), 6.5 rpg, 5.9 apg, 2.4 steals
Tyreke Evans (rookie 2009-2010) 20.1 ppg (52.9% TS), 5.3 rpg, 5.8 apg, 1.5 steals
Tyreke is not even in the same area code as Oscar and Michael. They performed significantly better in every category (except Jordan's assists). Oscar scored a full 10.4 more points per game on more efficient scoring. None of this is to say that Tyreke can't be a star, its just that he has been grouped with these players because he has eclipsed these round, conven ient numbers (20-5-5) that the other 2 flew past. It doesn't mean his numbers aren't awesome for a rookie, just there have been plenty of more impressive rookie seasons that just don't eclipse these round numbers.
Check Chris Paul's rookie season: 16 ppg (12 shots!) / 8 apg / 5 rebounds per game / 2.2 steals
They are the kind of numbers that are sensational for a rookie point guard. We shouldn't get caught up in the idea that Evans is having one of the best rookie seasons ever because of the 20-5-5. Chris Paul in my mind had a much better season than him or Curry it just didn't fulfil the same historical category's.
Also Curry is in his own elite group (Thanks to Jae for the info):
"At the same time (as Evans numbers bring up Oscar, Lebron and Jordan), in the 17.2 / 5.9 / 4.4 / 1.9 / .565 TS as a rookie category, it turned up"
No-one in the media mentions that.
It doesn't mean Curry is the next Magic or the next Jordan. It just means he's putting up great numbers as a rookie like Evans.
Not enough weight has been placed on Stephen Curry's craft - Evans is stronger, has better physical attributes, but he doesn't have the skill that Curry has. Some people think this means that once Evans gets more skills and doesn't just rely on his ability to get to the rim he will be better than Curry. However this overlooks the fact that Curry is applying his skill all the time in practice. We've seen him learn move after move that he's been using in games throughout the season. Witness his shake and bake on Chris Anderson. So while Evans can become more skilled than he is now, I say Curry always remains a step ahead as he keeps on adding more moves to his repertoire.
His J -
He's a more efficient shooter than Evans - Now this isn't the be-all and end-all but surely its an advantage that one player is a more efficient shooter who is in the Top 10 in the league in 3PT %. His TS% of 56.8 is significantly better than Tyreke's at 52.9%.
He's been playing with two of the most 'me first' players in the NBA yet has still managed to get his whilst letting them get theirs - Now this is the part of the argument that to me far outweighs the argument that his numbers are inflated as he plays in the No 1 paced Warriors offense. So Golden State have 102.7 possessions per game, Sacremento have 96.5 (source). Now 6 more possessions is quite a lot, however he has the ball vacuum that is Corey Maggette who averages only 2.5 assists per game, yet takes up about 17-20 possessions per game.
Then there is our last designated point guard of the future, Monta Ellis. Well he was the captain of the All-Gunner team. He'll happily take a contested deep 2 with 20+ seconds left on the shot clock... because he can. Furthermore he probably had one of the most disappointing 26 ppg seasons we'll ever witness. No-one really appreciated it because it didn't help the team. He acted as if every possession the shot he would get, taking on the entire defence was going to be what was best for the team.
Tyreke only had Carl Landry as a solid scorer on the team who averaged 18.3 points.
Off the court attitude - He's humble, down-to-earth and smart. We've all heard how the GSW locker room is now full of "Curry's guys" and how he's the kind of team-mate that anyone would want to play with. This is great going forward as it improves our ability (as if we have any with the current ownership) to attract free agents. Would a ball dominant player fancy playing in Sacramento next to Tyreke knowing Tyreke will always be the alpha-dog, but doesn't have the same 'pass-first' mentality.
This also makes me feel good about our team chemistry as Curry keeps everyone involved. With Curry as the man I don't see his team-mates becoming disillusioned with him as he gives them every chance to shine.
Why Stephen Curry may never eclipse Tyreke Evans (in tribute to the Sactown fans)
Stephen Curry is playing in the Warriors system at the fastest pace in the NBA - This means that the stats he is putting up are slightly inflated and so better stats to look at would be his Usage Numbers.
Stephen Curry - Assist Rate 24.6 % | Turnover 16.5 %
Tyreke Evans - Assist Rate 26.1 % | Turnover 13.6 %
I think there are some counters to the assist numbers. For example this does nothing to say Curry is a worse passer than Evans (who mainly gets his assists from drives and dishes when his options are cut off). It could even be explained by how Curry shares the ball more, to get his other teammates involved, without providing them directly with assists. Then again we can't in any way disrespect the fact that Evans assists on 26.1 % of his possessions, no matter how he gets them. They're good numbers.
However the Turnover % is important as Evans has a clear lead, which is pretty impressive considering the dangers of driving into traffic and considering defences have geared their defences against him all season.
Curry is 2 years older and has a head start on Evans - This argument can go both ways. On one hand Curry is now a more polished player who has a more solid base of overall skills from which to improve on. Also as Curry's game isn't based so much on his athleticism he is likely to have a longer career barring injury.
This article makes the case for how high school players going straight into the NBA have flamed out early due to wear and tear. While Evans obviously didn't come straight from High School he is on that end of the spectrum compared to the 2 extra years Curry spent in college.
However this means that Evans is at an unfair disadvantage when comparing them as he could be a completely different player in 2 years. He'll be a better shooter and probably a better floor general unless Sacremento draft a pure point guard and put him off the ball.
Why Tyreke has shown he is better than Stephen Curry, right now and will eclipse him in the future
His stats are better than Lebron's were in his rookie year -
Lebrons rookie year: 20.9 ppg | 7.9/18.9 FG (41.7%) | 5.9 apg | 5.5 rpg | 29% from 3PT
Lebron averaged 0.8 more points on almost 3 more shots and the same number of assists. Tyreke appears to be more efficient and manages to get the same amount of assists. This suggests that Tyreke is starting on a similar level to Lebron and can hope to improve his game in the same ways, higher efficiency, better passing etc.
Going to the basket is one of the best skills to have in the NBA - I can't remember the exact number (Sacramento fans help please) but I think he's top of the league in makes and attempts at the rim. Its the most efficient way to score in the NBA and it serves the dual purpose of getting points and the other team in foul trouble. If your going to start either being a good jump shooter or a player that can attack the rim, many people would say being able to attack the rim is the most desirable attribute. Attacking the rim is determined more by physical attributes than skill and so Curry won't be able to become as good at attacking the rim as Evans is (however do any of us really believe Evans can ever be anywhere near as good a shooter as Steph).
Where will he be in 2 years - With a good work ethic and the support of a franchise behind him he has every chance to develop into a star. We'll have a better idea come next season how much his shot has improved, but its safe to say it will be better. In two years time he will be the same age as Steph is now, and its hard to argue that come that time he won't be significantly better than Steph was at the same time.
Where are the bigs - He like Curry, doesn't have a quality big to prevent teams sending excess help when he breaks into the lane. If Evans had this, not only would he shoot a higher percentage from inside but he'd have someone to dish to every time the help comes. This may help him improve his scoring, his efficiency and his assists. This furthermore suggests that we can't knock Evans for being one dimensional when he doesn't have a big to ease the load.
So what if he's not the best facilitator, played off the ball he could be the perfect SG - This is a point that has come up in discussions and is an opinion I share. So what if Tyreke is not the perfect point guard? Played off the ball he could possibly be a more dominant player and help his team win more.
So say Sacramento found themselves a quality PG, great at distributing the ball and reading defenses. Evans would be able to move off the ball and pick his areas of attack. There's no reason to say that he couldn't average 20 points as a slasher easily but that's not the point. He is clearly good at finding the open man when he beats his defender and gets into the lane, so there's no reason he couldn't get himself 5 assists a game doing that. This would make him not necessarily a superstar, but perhaps more effective and would definitely help his team win more (provided you have that good point guard). Who'd complain about having a WadeLight.
There's no reason he can't produce the 20 points and 5 assists he is now in a more efficient way, this would mean Sacramento end up with a great SG who's abilities may be just as effective as Curry's are at PG.
In summary, I don't know why the Sacramento fans are so worked up about Evans being the PG/ primary ball-handler of the future. We have a similar player called Monta Ellis who isn't much of a playmaker, but tries to take on the whole defence and score whilst passing as a last resort. Even though he averages 5.3 assists giving the impression that he is a decent playmaker, we pray that he goes back to scoring 20 points off the ball at 53% shooting. Don't fall into the trap (like we did) of thinking just because a player can handle the ball and is great going to the rim, that he is your point guard of the future, no matter how much potential you think they have.
What is clutch - In my mind he has shown he can be what you Americans like to call "clutch". Being clutch is an idea i don't really understand as it seems to me there's no reason why a player should be lauded for making a shot at the end of the game, that we wouldn't have batted an eyelid to during the earlier part of the game. For example why is Kobe considered a 'clutch assassin' when he's made 26 of 89 game-winners in his career, if i was a Laker I'd be angry that this guy has decided to take almost 90 game winners but makes only 29% of them. I digress though, I just can't get over the game winner Tyreke hit against Denver . He didn't just chuck up a shot that would have had a roughly 35% chance of going in, he had the presence of mind to drive to the basket, fake and scoop. Kobe would have just made some space for a jumper that he probably hits about 35-40% on (his 29% overall is probably skewed to make him appear worse because of the number of heaves he's had to make). But Tyreke got himself an open look within about 8 ft of the basket that he'll make about 70% of the time, against a defence that was geared towards stopping him getting to the basket. I thought for a rookie 2-3 months into his career, that was special.
He's also hit a game winner against the Bucks
Teams are already planning their defences around Evans yet he still puts up great numbers - This is sort of self explanatory. He's managed to dominate games whilst playing against teams that completely focus on him. His only other consistent scorer to ease the load is Landry who has averaged 19 ppg since arriving in Sactown.
He's also been primarily accountable for the Kings improved record this year (up from 17 wins to 25). That's pretty impressive for a rookie on a team with no real upgrades over the previous years squad.
Nash or LeBron - On your championship team would you rather have Nash or Lebron. No question its Lebron every time. Now I personally don't believe Evans will ever be like Lebron because arguably he is one of the best passers in the league, but say he does develop the passing ability of just a good Point Guard (it's in no way unreasonable). He could become a Top 5 player in the league. He'd be combining the ability to get into the lane with playmaking from the top of the key. If I was guarding Tyreke i would not know what to do.
Evans game has appeared to be improving throughout the season with respect to his passing. He has averaged 7, 7.5 and 5.3 assists in the last 3 months. While these aren't quite the same as Steph's, if he's going to average these number consistently next year he is the man to handle the ball.
D - D is half of the game, or in the case of GSW about 55% of the game as we can't rebound. No matter what we think of Evans and Curry as defenders right now, say they both match up against point guards on D in 2 years, who's going to be the more dominant defender. Tyreke can over power his man and fight through screens much better than Steph.
Who's going to take Evans into the post to beat down on him? No one except maybe JR Smith who seems to think he can do everything.
Also Tyreke can match-up against players at the 1, 2 and 3. That's a pretty valuable part of his game. Think of the problems we're having at GSW because Monta and Curry are both undersized to guard 2's.
However Curry is in the top 4 in steals which suggest he has good hands on D and awareness of passing lanes etc on a level above Evans.
While Steph isn't a bad defender there is no way he has the same potential on that end as Tyreke. He'll never be as strong and simply as long.
Please tell me anything else you think should be added - This is a fan post but I want it to be as balanced as possible
Winning Matters - Stats aside, winning is what we care about. Teams score around 90-100 points a game, so both of these players no matter how good they are, are only going to account for about 20-25 PPG of scoring directly themselves. Ultimately, as they have been designated as the primary ball handlers on their respective teams going into the future, they are going to have to help the other players around them account for the extra 70 points on a nightly basis. To me the player that will do this Curry. He gets his team-mates involved and has no qualms with passing for the sake of ball movement. Even though Evans may forever put up more points per game, to the opposing defence it may always be easier for them to contain Sacramento as they just have to key on Evans. Curry led a team of 2-3 D-Leaguers at the end of the season, without hogging the ball. In the future, when by some miracle Golden State fill out a solid playoff roster, I think Curry will be the man who allows every teammate to thrive. On current trends and evidence, with Evans as the man, a well rounded Sacramento team may never achieve its potential whilst allowing Evans to be a star. (Thanks to Dubs hoops for reminding me to put a section on this topic in the post).
This is just my opinion and I still stand by it after all my discussions with the people over at Sactown. Thanks for a lot of your points as they have really fleshed out the article, and given me a lot more to think about when coming to my conclusions. Your future is all the more brighter for having a player like Tyreke.
So what do you think? Is Curry the future, or Tyreke? Or in fact are they both so good that each team can build around them, and in the end the debate will become moot because they're such different players? To be honest we should be the 2 teams laughing, we had the 4th and 7th pick yet we ended up with players that are the envy of every other team in the lottery (except maybe the Clips).
Thanks for reading, the post will be updated accordingly with anything people add in the comments