Last night, with his team trailing the Grizzlies by a point in the final minute of the game, Chris Paul passed the ball to Reggie Evans. Evans made a layup, putting the Clippers up by one for the game’s final margin. It was, as Henry Abbott called it, a triumph of Team Ball over Hero Ball, with Chris Paul — the superstar — electing to pass the ball to Evans — the unheralded bench player — in crunch time, instead of forcing a tough shot for himself.
We shouldn’t be surprised about Chris Paul passing the ball in late game situations. But should he have passed to Reggie Evans, he of the 4.0 PPG career average?
With the exception of an injury-riddled 09-10 season (in which Evans was limited to 311 minutes), Reggie Evans has always been an above average player.
Table 1: Selected individual career statistics for Reggie Evans
Note: Net Possessions = Rebounds + Steals – Turnovers
Evans is a good player because of his exceptional ability to gain extra possessions, which is largely driven by his excellent rebounding. But as we can see, Evans doesn’t score many points and is not a good shooter. Luckily for his teams, Evans doesn’t take very many shots, which mitigates the impact his bad shooting has on his productivity. By focusing on his strengths and minimizing his weaknesses, Evans can be a very valuable part of a successful team.
Last season in Toronto, Evans was the Raptors’ fourth best player. Now it’s true that the Raptors weren’t a very good team — they finished the season ranked 14th in the Eastern Conference — but that was because some very bad players. Evans was also the fourth best player on the 76ers during the 07-08 season (finished 7th in the East), the second best player on the Nuggets during the 06-07 season (6th in the West), the best player on the Sonics during the 04-05 season (3rd in the West), and the third best player on the Sonics during the 02-03 season (10th in the West). All this despite the fact that Evans has never played big minutes — the most he’s totaled in a single season is 1881, during the 04-05 season, and his highest minutes per game was last year, at 26.6.
That being said, Evans is not necessarily a good option if you are looking for a bucket — regardless of the time or situation during the game. But if you watch the clip, Evans was pretty open, and the Grizzlies’ shot blocker, Marc Gasol, was out of the play. The only Grizzlies’ player who could have affected that shot was Zach Randolph, and although Randolph is a good rebounder, he is a historically bad shot blocker for a big man. I’m sure that Evans knew this — Evans is on that same list, and we all know that it takes one to know one (yes, this is tongue in cheek). There’s also the fact the Randolph is still recovering from a knee injury, which further inhibits his jumping ability, and that it’s unlikely that anyone was expecting Evans to take a shot in that situation. When you put it all together, there was a good chance that Evans was going to hit the shot. Credit Chris Paul for creating the play, and have some respect for Reggie Evans, one of the league’s most underrated players.