I think fans of every sport have their own version of the Reggie Evans story: a guy originally brought into an organization to play a minor, supporting role, but ends up getting significantly more time than warranted based on circumstance and maybe just a little bit of stubbornness from the coaches.
For the first two months of the season, Brooklyn Nets fans seemed to really embrace Evans’ energy, and of course his uncanny ability to grab a rebound. He was part of, at the time, an immensely successful “bench mob” filled with great stories in the likes of the personality-reformed Andray Blatche, the resurrection of Jerry Stackhouse, and the steadily frantic C.J. Watson. But as the season has worn, Blatche’s conflicts came to another head while his play regressed, Stackhouse seemingly lost his spark and knack at hitting corner 3’s after Avery Johnson was fired, and Watson was legitimately outplayed by a rookie second-round pick on Monday night when the team desperately needed him to fill in for Deron Williams. Reggie Evans, on the other hand, was promoted to the starting lineup.
Let’s not undersell what Evans does well. He’s a prolific rebounder. He currently leads the league in rebounding percentage and has three 20+ rebound games to his credit. With an average/below average rebounder in Brook Lopez sharing floor-time, Evans does have something to offer the team. But as has been noted throughout his career, Evans is incredibly limited beyond his ability to crash the glass. His inability to put the ball in the hoop with any kind of skill or precision puts the Nets at a 4-on-5 disadvantage on the offensive end. The net result is that defenses can now stack the paint at will against the Nets, because they’re playing a PF who is incapable of scoring anywhere near the basket. In many ways, it makes Lopez’s great offensive season, even more incredible when you consider he has to work in the post with defenses already lined up and ready to guard him.
Meanwhile, while Evans is a phenomenal rebounder, he’s not necessarily a great one-on-one defender. He can’t block shots, and gets beat in the post with too much frequency to play more than 20 minutes a game. But that’s exactly what’s happened as the season has gone on; As Evans’ limitations have become more exposed, his playing time has increased. In the month of February, by far the team’s worst since its epic-fail December, Evans is averaging 27.8 minutes a game, compared to only 19.8 in November, when the team was probably playing its best.
Granted, I know a lot of this has to do with the fact that the Nets only regard Kris Humphries as a tradeable contract (and he’s done very little to distinguish himself as a legit NBA starter warranting $12 million a year), and Mirza Teletovic continues to remain a mystery that confounds coaches with his great practices but abysmal performances in game-time situations. There are two other alternatives that are more palatable if the coaching staff is insistent on not letting Teletovic just work out his kinks in a game: play Blatche at PF alongside Brook (which would then weaken the bench), or move Gerald Wallace to the four and play small (though that would open up playing time for someone like Keith Bogans or Stackhouse, which may not be much better over the long haul). Point being, I think we’ve all seen enough of Evans to know that the minutes trajectory shouldn’t be increasing over the last two and a half months of the regular season.
It’s a little unfair to judge Evans since his playing time and the consequences that come with it aren’t his fault. Fans can’t expect Reggie to bow out of PT. That’s part of the reason why he was such a fun player to watch – off the bench – because he constantly had his foot on the pedal during those short bursts of PT. However, watching a player with so many limitations get so much burn is also a frustrating experience for a fan. So maybe let’s just split the difference and give him a perfectly average rating.
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Andray Blatche | Keith Bogans | MarShon Brooks | P.J. Carlesimo | Reggie Evans | Kris Humphries | Joe Johnson | Brook Lopez | Tornike Shengelia | Jerry Stackhouse | Tyshawn Taylor | Mirza Teletovic | Gerald Wallace | C.J. Watson | Deron Williams