Before we crown Brandon Jennings this season’s rookie of the year, let’s not overlook a young King in Sacramento who is quietly putting together just as good of a season – if not better.
Tyreke Evans doesn’t get the same media attention as Jennings because he plays for a small-market team in Northern California and, unless you have the NBA League Pass, you won’t find his games on national TV.
But the lack of exposure hasn’t stopped the 6-foot-6, 220-pound point guard/shooting out of Memphis from establishing his position as a top rookie candidate, and he has more than filled the vacuum left by leading scorer Kevin Martin, who has been out since Nov. 6 because of an injured wrist.
Whether he’s at the point or on the wing, Evans’ ability to influence games with his versatility and aggressive, attacking style is a big reason why the Kings have remained competitive in the Western Conference.
In the year of the rookie point guards, Evans and Jennings have distinguished themselves from fellow first-year players such as Darren Collison (New Orleans), Jonny Flynn (Minnesota), Eric Maynor (Utah), Toney Douglas (New York) and Ty Lawson (Denver).
Ever since his 55-point outburst on Nov. 14 against Golden State, Jennings has been given his own highlight segment nightly on SportsCenter. But when you compare Jennings’ and Evans’ individual statistics, Evans is right on his tail on a few of categories and a lot better in others.
Jennings has a slightly higher average in points (21.1 to 20.2) and assists (5.7 to 5.1), but Evans is ahead in steals (1.4 to 1.0), owns a higher shooting percentage (46% to 41%), has a big advantage in rebounds (5.0 to 3.9) and gets to the free throw line more frequently (121 to 82).
The only significant aspect of the game that Jennings is more superior than Evans is 3-point shooting. Jennings has knocked down 43 of 100 (43%) 3-pointers while Evans has made just 11 of 40 (27%).
Evans and second-year forward Jason Thompson have thrived under Paul Westphal’s player-friendly offense and both young guns have pushed Sacramento into the top tier in terms offensive production. Thompson is averaging 2.6 (14.2) more points and 1.3 (9) more rebounds per game.
Jennings appears to be slowing with the physical nature of the game wearing down his body. Evans is built for the pro game and he should only get better as the season progresses.