With Tyreke Evans becoming the first Sacramento King to ever win the prestigious title of Rookie of the Year this week, disappointment was felt by the fanbases in Oakland and Milwaukee.
Golden State's Stephen Curry and Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings pieced together solid seasons; but ultimately it was the combination of a historic milestone and the rock solid consistency of Tyreke Evans from October to April that resulted in his nomination as the league's top rookie.
There's a notion out there that Stephen Curry didn't start playing until the season was a few months old.That is wildly inaccurate, as Curry was named a starter from opening day. He logged reasonably consistent minutes, to boot.
Curry's statistical averages went like this in the early going:
November: 9.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 5.2 apg.
December:13.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.6 apg.
Compare those figures to Tyreke's:
November: 20.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 5.0 apg.
December: 22.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 5.0 apg.
The bottom line is crystal clear. Tyreke Evans was 20-5-5 from October until April, essentially. Stephen Curry wasn't.
Curry's production did get markedly better as the season wore on, however. He finished with astounding averages of 17.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and a tremendous shooting percentages from the field, from three, and from the free throw line.
Certainly, Curry was affected by Monta Ellis being in and out of the starting lineup.
The Warriors finished the season at 26-56, which was actually 3 games worse than the previous season. Granted, Golden State suffered a bevvy of injuries, but that doesn't say a lot about Stephen Curry, if the team technically performed worse with his addition to the roster.
In contrast, the Kings elevated from a league worst 17 wins in 2008-09 to 25 with Evans aboard.
Brandon Jennings is the stark opposite to Stephen Curry. While Curry's stats are solid and his percentages are through the roof, Jennings stats are okay and percentages are brutal.
And whereas Curry's Warriors were one of the league's worst teams, Jennings led his Milwaukee Bucks to 46 wins, and they are still fighting on in the playoffs.
Jennings' most compelling argument is the success of his undermanned Milwaukee Bucks.
Coming off of a 34-48 year in 2008-09, the Bucks increased their win total by 12 games. Brandon Jennings, like Evans and Curry, started from day one for the Bucks.
In just his seventh career game, he posted a jaw dropping 55 point performance. That was the most any player scored in a single game the entire season.
Brandon would go on to compile sound averages of 15.5 points, 3.4 boards, and 5.7 assists per game, but his ultimate undoing was his appalling shooting percentage. Jennings shot a paltry 37.1% from the field in 2009-10, far and away the worst amongst all starting point guards in the NBA.
Winning matters greatly in determining award winners like this one. I just believe Steph Curry and Tyreke Evans were simply too productive to be edged by Brandon Jennings for Rookie of the Year consideration.
Tyreke Evans came to a Sacramento team with no identity. A team starved for an All-Star caliber player. A fanbase desperate for improvement after obtaining the league's worst record the year before. Within a couple games, Evans solved all those dilemmas for the Kings and their fans.
Sacramento hadn't had an All-Star weekend participant since 2004. No All-Star, no dunk contest, no rookie game, no 3 point shootout. No representation for six years. All that changed when Evans took home the MVP of the Rookie vs. Sophomore game in February.
Let's make this clear. Nobody on the Sacramento Kings, Milwaukee Bucks or Golden State Warriors was nominated as an All-Star this year. Each of these three first year players was given the ball in October and asked to guide their franchises.
But while Brandon Jennings had an All-Star caliber big man in Andrew Bogut for most of the year, and Stephen Curry was running alongside an All-Star caliber guard in Monta Ellis for a good majority of his season, Tyreke Evans ran it alone.
I'd argue the King's second best player is Carl Landry, a 3rd year undrafted power forward acquired in a February trade. At this time in his blossoming career, no one would consider Landry an All-Star prospect. Evans plays alongside one of the youngest rosters in the NBA.
The point is this: opposing defenses established very quickly that if you can limit Tyreke Evans, you've got a damn good chance at beating the Sacramento Kings.
In my opinion, he faced higher degrees of difficulty on a night to night basis. He routinely drew the oppositions premiere defenders. Everyone from Shane Battier to Ron Artest to LeBron James would check Evans. Incredibly, Evans' statistical performance continued to shine. Jennings and/or Curry can not make the same claim.
It's been spoken ad nauseam that Tyreke is only the 4th rookie player in NBA history to average 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists a game. Evans accompanied a who's who of NBA legends in Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Oscar Robertson in achieving that feat.
However, rarely does it get mentioned that only three players in the league averaged 20, 5 and 5. The other two? Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Evans was truly elite from game one until game 82. He missed 10 games in March due to a severe concussion, but rebounded quickly and seemingly never skipped a beat.
Evans was a shot in the arm for a downtrodden franchise. He is well deserving of the national recognition he is now receiving. He has firmly established himself as the King's best player at the ripe age of 20 and at the same time entrenched himself as the spoken leader of this young ballclub.
Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings obviously had very promising rookie seasons, and both are going to be forces in this league for the next decade. But Tyreke Evans put together one of the best rookie seasons of all time, and consequently is very deserving of the honor bestowed upon him.