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Evaluating the NBA Sophomore Class: Sophomore Sensation or Second-Year Slouch?

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Evaluating the NBA Sophomore Class: Sophomore Sensation or Second-Year Slouch?
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

It all begins with a handshake, a pivot, and a multi-million dollar grin for the cameras. Each summer, 60 players hear their name called by NBA commissioner David Stern. These chosen few climb a narrow staircase in what is the dawn of so many promising careers.

Just over half of those players survive their initial season in the league after many see demotions to the NBDL, where the maximum salary is just over $25,000 annually, or seek slightly more lucrative deals in European competition.

The players who live to see their second year in the NBA are often evaluated under a different microscope, a microscope that no longer takes into account a transitional adjustment period or maturity issues that plague young players.

With the NBA season quickly approaching the quarter mark, it’s time to take a look at the players who have taken the next step as second year stars or fallen behind as a second year slouch.

Tyreke Evans entered the 2010-’11 season as one of the most highly touted second-year players looking to build an encore performance off of his jaw-dropping 20.1 PPG, 5.8 ASG, and 5.3 RPG output. His rookie season placed him among Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James as the only first year players to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per contest.

Perhaps daunting expectations have thrown a wet towel on what was expected to be an even more brilliant statistical season for Evans, but instead the 6’5’’ combo guard has taken a step backward. Thus far his 17.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 5.4 ASG have sunk his Sacramento Kings to the basement of the Pacific division just ahead of the league’s worst Los Angeles Clippers.

Compounding Evans’ regression has been his dismal 18.5 three-point percentage which places him among the league’s worst of shooters who attempt two or more 3 pointers per game. The Kings are still feeling out a new offense that lacks a secondary scoring threat so don’t expect the Kings to impress until General Manager Wayne Cooper adds another piece to this team. A strong December from Evans would quickly dispel any thoughts of a drop-off from the young guard.

Ahead of Evans on the draft board was the second selection in 2009 in former Connecticut standout Hasheem Thabeet. The 7’3’’ Tanzanian dominated the college ranks and collected every defensive accolade imaginable but his prowess hasn’t translated to the professional ranks.

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