Almost all NBA experts and fans have resigned themselves to the fact that the Sacramento Kings point guard Tyreke Evans will be crowned this season’s Rookie of the Year. The truth is, they’re probably right in their predictions. That said, amid outstanding performances from players like Brandon Jennings, Marcus Thornton, Darren Collison, Ty Lawson, and DeJuan Blair, is it fair to write everyone else off right off the bat?
The truth is, in place of Evans, I wouldn’t name any of the aforementioned players the ROY award. Instead, it would go to Stephen Curry.
Get this straight, though: Looking at the statistics of the two players over the course of the entire season, Evans has put up a more productive campaign than Curry. He’s scoring three more points per game and outdistances Curry by about two-and-a-half points in PER. But the Davidson alumnus’s marks are nothing to scoff at.
He’s scoring 17 a game and adding 6 assists, 4 boards, and 2 steals. In addition, his shooting percentages are fantastic: 46 percent from the floor, an alarming 43 percent from long range, and 88 percent from the charity stripe. Those numbers, if not for a minutes minimum, would have garnered Curry a spot on John Hollinger’s Greatest Shooters Ever list. That’s pretty amazing.
But everyone knew Curry could shoot coming into the league. He lit up the scoreboard from any distance in college. Where he has really shined is in his ability to make good passes and lead an offense. No one was really sure whether he had the distribution skills to play the 1, and he lacks the size to effectively play the 2, so he has helped himself in that way.
Since the beginning of February, Curry has nine double-doubles, including one triple-double. Over that span, he’s averaging over 7.7 assists to go along with just over 21 points. His second-half play has led David Thorpe to suggest that Curry could be the next Steve Nash in his NBA Rookie Watch.
To recap, Stephen Curry has shown signs of being a top-10 shooter of all-time and comparing to Steve Nash, one of the finest point guards in NBA history, according to two of the NBA’s leading experts. That’s quite a résumé already.
Sure, he doesn’t play defense, but how can you really expect him to on the Golden State Warriors. Maybe with a new owner and coach he will develop some skill on that side of the ball.
As for Evans, he’s playing the point-guard position, but should he be? He succumbs to what Hollinger calls tunnel vision — he drives to the hole, looking for an assist as only an absolute last resort. He is a prolific scorer, but to take his name to the next level, he needs to learn to find his teammates for easy shots, else he risks drawing routine double teams and alienating his peers to the point where it becomes an issue in the locker room. Curry is already a step ahead of him in that respect.
But to solve this debate requires a specific definition with respect to the Rookie of the Year award. Is it given to the player who shows the most promise, or is it given to the player who has the most effective rookie season? The answer is the latter, or at least it should be (Derrick Rose edged Brook Lopez for the prize last year undeservedly, but that’s another story). Accordingly, the winner of the award should be Evans. He undoubtedly put up the better numbers over the course of the entire season.
Regardless, it will be fun to watch these two guys develop, and I’m sure losing out on the award won’t discourage Curry from playing to the best of his ability in the years to come. It’s just too bad we won’t see either of these guys in the playoffs this season; watching Rose nearly upset the heavily favored Celtics in a number of multiple-overtime games was incredibly exciting. Alas, their teams are both lottery bound in May.