The Unfulfilled Careers of Tyreke Evans and Michael Carter-Williams

In the same season, two former Rookies of the Year were traded. One was traded within his division, from Milwaukee to Chicago. Michael Carter-Williams was traded for another young player (Tony Delk) who has yet to do much in the league. The other former Rookie of the Year, Tyreke Evans, was traded for an All-Star and former teammate, DeMarcus Cousins. The situations were different but the message was the same. Neither fulfilled their promise. Their best days are behind them.

It is a little bit like squinting at the sun. The Rookie of the Year award is for the best first year player. It is a nod to greatness coming down the line, perhaps All-Star bids, perhaps championships. But not always. Tim Duncan was Rookie of the Year. Kobe Bryant was not. Steve Francis, Elton Brand and Mike Miller were Rookies of the Year. Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowtizki, Steph Curry were not. Allen Iverson, LeBron James, Chris Paul and Kevin Durant were Rookies of the Year and are considered generational talents. Emeka Okafor and Damon Stoudamire were not.

Your first year being your greatest year is on no one’s wish list. But it is the case of Tyreke Evans and Michael Carter Williams.

Tyreke Evans was drafted in 2009, the year after Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose turned heads in the league with his quickness and flair for the dramatic. Evans, a Calipari Memphis product, came into the league without a position. Was he a point guard? Was he a shooting guard? He had a strong body and a blazing fast first step but he didn’t have the intangibles necessary to run a team and he was an awful perimeter scorer. His scouting report coming into the league said “Evans clearly won’t fit into every system. It would be very difficult to play him alongside another guard who is also not much of a threat from beyond the arc. With the right teammates, Evans could be very effective.”

Effective he was his rookie year. He averaged 20.1 points and 5.8 assists, on 45.8% shooting. As scouts predicted, he was a terrible perimeter scorer, 25.5% on threes. From 3-9 feet he shot 34%. From 10-16 feet, 39.6%. Draining long twos was the same misery, 32.6%. But at the rim, 59%.

Rookie of the Year Points FG% 3-Point % Assists Rebounds
Tyreke Evans (2010) 20.1 45.8% 25.5% 5.8 5.3
Michael Carter-Williams (2014) 16.7 40.5% 26.4% 6.3 6.2

A 20 point scorer in his rookie year translates into a career 25 point scorer because your rookie year isn’t your best year. But. For Tyreke Evans it was. He has never had another 20 point per game season. The closest he came was his second year, 17.8 points. After seven seasons, his career average is 16.3 points. He had his best three point shooting season last year, 38.8%, but it was a small sample size, 25 games.

How does a 20 point per game scorer get worse as his career goes along? Injuries. Tyreke has missed 155 NBA games. 25% of the schedule. In his seven year career, Evans has only played 70+ games three times (once was his rookie year). Though during the strikeout year he only missed three games. Last season, he played 25 games and needed multiple knee surgeries. He had a blood clot and started the season mid-December. But you have to wonder if his bread and butter is gone, that legendary quickness he is known for. Who exactly is Tyreke Evans now? Who are the Sacramento Kings getting?

Never a perimeter scorer, Evans game is beat you off the dribble. But that requires a certain level of speed. Where he can transition, though, is the passing game. 5 out of 7 NBA seasons he has posted 5+ assists. His last two seasons (not including this one) he has crossed the 6.6 assist threshold. Even though his game might have to change, he can evolve into a passer first, scorer second as way to keep his game relevant. Lucky for him he used to play with Anthony Davis who made it easy for a passer. Just drop him the ball and watch him score. Not so lucky for him anymore with a bunch of spare parts in Sacramento.

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Often, success comes too early; it’s better to learn without all the attention. In Michael Carter-Williams first game he was mesmerizing. He played the Miami Heat and dominated the on court action. It was his 9 steals that made everyone say wtf? It was a rookie debut record. He scored efficiently, 22 points. He dished the ball, 12 assists. He pulled in 7 boards. He was named Player of the Week. The last rookie to earn Player of the Week honors was Shaquille O’Neal in 1992. That set the hype machine in motion despite the knock on Carter-Williams pre-draft for being a terrible shooter.

Before Carter-Wiliams was drafted, a scout said, “He needs to make strides to reach his potential as a pro: his decision making and perimeter shooting. Ball security was an area of concern in the half court. He is the second worst spot up and 5th worst pick and roll shooter of the point guard core.”

That identity hasn’t changed much and was why Philly was eager to trade him to Milwaukee. The Bucks had hoped that Carter-Williams would revert back to his rookie year. However, in a three year career he has played in 65% of scheduled games.

After Rookie of the Year Points FG% 3-Point% Assists Rebounds
Tyreke Evans 15.5 44.1% 29.4% 5.09 4.71
Michael Carter-Williams 12.3 41.4% 23.9% 5.42 5.14

Carter-Williams rookie year he scored 16.7 points per game but the glaring number of 40.5% field goals was a cautionary tale. Yes, he was Rookie of the Year, but the class was weak (Victor Oladipo and Trey Burke were runners up).

From the three point line, Carter-Williams was 26.4% his rookie year. He had a good assist year of 6.6 per game, a much needed playmaker for a bad Philly team without much talent. He was an excellent rebounding guard, 6.6 rebounds his rookie year. That won him the award. His next season he was worse. 39.6% shooting. 14.6 points. His assists rose to 6.7. But his rebounding numbers dropped to 5.3. Still good but not as good as his rookie season. He was traded, coached by the second best point guard in NBA history, Jason Kidd. If anyone could fix Carter-Williams, it would be Kidd.

Last season Carter-Williams had his best shooting year, 45.2%, though he only played 54 games. He is a worthless three point shooter, a career 25.5% average and after his rookie year he has only made  60 threes. That averages out to 20 a year. One made three every seven games.

Carter-Williams averaged 11.5 points last season but still hit the 5.0+ mark in rebounds and assists. He is what the scouts always thought, an average point guard, more than likely a backup. The Bucks had been trying to trade him since January (2016) but no luck until the Bulls bit.

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Looks can be deceiving. Tyreke Evans is a 6-6, 220 pounder combo guard. Michael Carter-Williams is a 6-6 point guard. After their first year there was so much hype, so much expected but some promises are made out of paper. They disintegrate. Both Evans and Carter-Williams have long left the teams that drafted them. Now Evans has returned to Sacramento. Like Evans, Carter-Williams is on his third team.

When people say the NBA is tough, this is what they mean. Four years separate Tyreke Evans and Michael Carter Williams from their greatest NBA moment. Since 2010 and 2014, their ROY years, it’s been rocky, turbulent and more valleys than peaks.

Carter-Williams was traded to the Bulls at the beginning of the year and has been an offensive disaster. He is shooting 39% and making 20% of his threes. It is hard to see him staying in the league much longer without the ability to score. His 22 minutes a game is a career low. 11 of his 26 games he has scored 5 points or less.

Tyreke Evans is coming off of knee surgery.  He has played in 26 games too. He is shooting 40% and 30% from three. One quarter of his games he has scored 5 points or less. In Sacramento he is going to have to erase the past. Everyone remembers the quick and agile Tyreke. He is a silhouette, a different player now.

They have their trophies. They have their trades, twice for both of them, they have their potential which has gone south either because of injury, talent, fate, circumstance or all of the above. They didn’t fulfill the promise and now are part of trade bait only to make the money work. Tyreke Evans will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Michael Carter-Williams will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Evans more than likely will be in the league because he can still get to the rim. He is not a starter anymore but can add to a team. Carter-Williams has the question marks he has always had. A point guard that can’t shoot isn’t an attractive commodity and in a free market economy it doesn’t really make much sense.

Rookie of the Year today, very average tomorrow. It is how the NBA stays relevant. In other words, nothing is promised. Everything changes.

 

photo via llananba