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Deconstructing Reggie Evans

Reggie Evans can be a disruptive force on the basketball court. I don't think there's any way to deny that. His numbers will tell you he's a great rebounder, and little else. Most statistical measures will tell you he's more of a drag on the team than a benefit. More often than not, it seems the Sixers would be better off sitting him on the end of the bench, but then every once in a while, he has a tremendous impact on a game. And now I want you to spend a second thinking about when Reggie causes the most damage (for the opponents, not for the Sixers).

If you thought hard enough, you realized that Reggie does the most damage in big games. More specifically, he does the most damage against good teams, and I think there's a reason for that.

First, the numbers. Reggie has had 9 games this season with a game score of 5 or greater. These are the teams the Sixers played in those games.

  • Boston (11.2)
  • @ Boston (10.2)
  • @ Utah (8.0)
  • OKC (7.7)
  • Portland (7.5)
  • Dallas (7.1)
  • @ New Orleans (5.9)
  • @ Atlanta (5.5)
  • @ Detroit (5.1)
In those games he's averaged 18.78 minutes of game action, the following are his per 36 minute averages in those games.

  • FTA: 4.90
  • O-REB: 5.54
  • TOT REB: 11.72
  • STEALS: 2.56
  • POINTS: 12.57
For reference, let's take a look at his numbers in the other 35 games. He averages 10.46 minutes, the numbers below are per 36 minutes.

  • FTA: 2.26
  • O-REB: 4.03
  • TOT REB: 12.30
  • STEALS: 0.89
  • POINTS: 4.82
Here's what I glean purely from the numbers. Usually, Reggie is a thug who cleans the glass and fouls. He doesn't get steals, he doesn't get to the line. Rebounding is pretty much the only way he helps. Against the better teams, and we can be a little more specific here, but we'll get to that in the next paragraph, Reggie is a thug who has a tremendous impact on the game. Check out the number of possessions he gains for the team with steals and offensive rebounds. Check out how often he goes to the line, putting fouls on the other team. And check out how many points he scores.

Now, what does this mean? Here's my take. OKC is an outlier, so let's forget about them for a little while. The other teams all have one thing in common, they're solid half-court-oriented offensive teams. Look at it this way, these teams are absolutely comfortable running traditional, organized half-court sets. In fact, that's how they prefer to play.

Pick and rolls, low post, high post, ball screens. These offenses are based on timing, spacing and execution. They're designed to allow superior offensive talent to execute against any defense, based on a standard set of rule. Meaning, this is how they play offense, this is how you play defense, we put our superior offensive players in certain positions so your typical half-court defense won't be able to stop us a majority of the time.

This perfect world of offensive execution is turned on its head when Reggie Evans comes into the game. Reggie does not behave like the x on the chalk board. Reggie doesn't rally behave like a rational basketball player. At no time do teams practice running their typical half-court sets with the opposing team's power forward picking up the point guard and doubling at half court. They aren't prepared for his physical play on the perimeter and their comfort level in the offensive system they've come to know and love is destroyed. Sometimes it lasts for a couple of minutes, sometimes it lasts for long stretches.

It's a paradox that a guy who is otherwise a mostly ineffective player can become such a disruptive force against the best teams in the league, but on the other hand, it makes sense. Look at it this way, offenses based on little more than isolation plays, movement and quick shots, rather than open shots, won't be phased by Evans. The point will give the ball up quickly, maybe they'll make one more pass and put up a somewhat ill-advised shot. Just like they would have anyway. But tried-and-true offensive sets designed to use the shot clock are predicated upon what rational defenses will do in certain situations. There's a methodical rhythm and timing to it. Evans starts a chain reaction that causes the whole system to break down.

With his pressure, the first pass is made under duress and while the defense is scrambling because of his double, the offense has to react just as quickly because there are 4 other ball-hawking defenders on the floor just waiting for an opportunity to pounce. Reggie takes the pacid pace of a well-executed offense and makes it frantic, which may lead to open shots sometimes, but more often it causes these half-court teams to rush things, make silly mistakes and unless they are extremely composed, it can mean a disastrous run.

The most-recent example of this came in the last game against the Celtics. Reggie entered the game with 28 seconds left in the first quarter, the Sixers were trailing 30-18. He left the game with 6 seconds left in the second quarter, the Sixers then held a 49-48 lead.

So in the first 11:32, the Celtics scored 30 points on 13/19 shooting. The had zero shots blocks, but turned the ball over 4 times. All in all, their offense was clicking and the Sixers could do very little to shut down their half-court sets. Once Evans came in, that all changed. Over the next 12:22, the Celtics were held to 18 points on 8/17 shooting, they had 2 of their shots blocked and they turned the ball over 8 times. The Sixers scored 16 points off those 8 turnovers and 2 blocks.

If you'd like more examples, check out the Sixers' playoff series with the Pistons from last season.

Yes, Reggie does get paid way too much money. Yes, on most nights he's a drag on the team. Still, I can't help but believe he's a valuable member of this team based purely on what his pressence and psycho attitude can do to the best teams in the league. He's their secret weapon, and could really be an equalizer in the playoffs. If he's traded, I have to admit, I'll miss the guy.
by Brian on Feb 6 2009
Tags: Basketball | Reggie Evans | Sixers |