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Ball Don't Lie

Reggie Evans attributes his fantastic month to a teammate’s call for him to be benched

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Reggie Evans, possibly glaring at "Unnamed Teammate #1" (Getty Images)

Relative to all basketball players, Brooklyn Nets forward Reggie Evans is a fantastic basketball player. In NBA terms, though, Reggie Evans is a one-dimensional player. By most metrics and the typical eye-tests, Evans is not a particularly strong defender. He has no post game on offense to speak of, no jumper to test a defense’s mettle, and his 52 percent career free throw stroke leaves him prone to bouts of Hack-a-Reg from opposing teams.

[Also: Kobe injury adds to Lakers woes as they hobble toward finish line]

What Evans does do is rebound, expertly. The problem with that insistence on performing in 1-D is that Evans either needs to rebound better than just about any other player in the NBA, or he needs to at least make the other aspects of his non-rebounding game more potent, in order to justify minutes. Mainly because it’s hard for players that only focus on one aspect of basketball (people like Jason Collins, Tony Allen, Nick Young, Steve Novak, and to a lesser extent Jose Calderon) to earn big minutes on a great team by merely plying one trade at a time. This is why an unnamed teammate of Evans asked for Reggie to be benched last month, and why Evans has responded with perhaps the best month of his career. From the New York Daily News (via Pro Basketball Talk):

“I got frustrated one day when one of my teammates told my coach to take me out the game. I bit my tongue. I didn’t say nothing to (my teammate),” Evans said. “But me, knowing me, I usually attack and say something. I bit my tongue. I said, ‘OK.’ I said, ‘All right, start being aggressive.’ So I took it in a positive way, instead of just doing my normal self, like ‘What you say? What you say?’”

[…]

"In the past when people play off me, I was still looking to be less aggressive on the offensive end. I still was looking to pass it and stuff like that. And (after a teammate told [coach P.J.] Carlesimo to bench me), I said, 'Let me just be a little aggressive and make them play us honestly instead of not playing me and stuff like that.'

"I'm just doing my best to be more aggressive so if they respect me, cool. If they don't, cool. I'm not tripping. At the end of the day, they know I'm out there."

Reg is not tripping. By any stretch of the imagination.

Evans pulled in an impressive 10.8 rebounds in just 26 minutes per game during the month of February, but he shot 38 percent from the field and just under 49 percent from the free throw line in 12 contests. He hasn’t exactly turned into Jack Sikma at the stripe in March, but his 56 percent mark from the free throw line is above his career average, and he’s managed to make half of his shots from the field on his way toward 7.3 points per game.

Most impressive is Evans’ work in his favorite dimension. Reggie is averaging 15.5 rebounds a contest in March even while playing under 28 minutes a contest. In 13 games he’s managed to dominate the glass for his Nets, who have gone 8-5 in a typically Netsian month.

What’s also typically Netsian is the team’s slow pace, something that some of the less observant NBA broadcasters may not consider when they take into account the team’s statistical output. The Nets average the second-fewest possessions per game in the NBA, and this is a top-10 offensive team with not a lot of spare misses to collar. Evans may “only” be averaging 10.4 rebounds per game on the season, but when you factor in the team’s slow pace and his 23.8 minutes per game average, what he’s doing is remarkable. Think about the fact that Evans is pulling in double-figure boards despite playing less than half a game for the league’s second-slowest team.

And then consider his 25.9 rebound rate. This means that over a quarter of the missed shots available when Evans is on the court end up in his hands. If this seems low for a rebounding specialist, we should lend perspective by pointing out that Dennis Rodman only topped that mark four times in his career. Barely topped, in some instances.

It’s true that Reggie Evans is a one-dimensional player. He’s dominating the scene, though. Whether that unnamed teammate realizes it or not.

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