I meant to do this sooner, but, well I’ve been busy with, um… all that wild and crazy stuff I spend my time doing.  Like, really wild.  And really crazy.  Way too insane for me to put in writing, even while writing under a pseudonym.

The Sports Guy, whom I generally like and often agree with, posted his list of the top 50 NBA players ranked by trade value.  (In other words, not just the pure top 50 at the moment, but the top 50 when accounting for salary and age.)  I’m well aware that putting together such a list would be difficult, and I’m not going to nitpick.

There is, however, one glaring problem with the list.  Specifically, the Sports Guy ranked Tyreke Evans #39.

I couldn’t disagree more strongly.  In fact, I think Tyreke Evans might be the least valuable player in the entire league.  Literally, the least valuable.  The absolute very last guy in the league I would want on my team if I was a GM and we were drafting all of the players in the league.

To be clear, I have nothing against Evans.  I’m sure he’s a fine fellow.  I am not saying that there are not a  variety of different careers that he’d be good at — in fact I’m not commenting on his other career possibilities at all.  It just so happens, though, that he decided to pursue a career as a basketball player, and, well, I’m a basketball blogger who spends his free time commenting on basketball players.  Thus, me commenting on Tyreke’s chosen career path is entirely appropriate.

To understand my issue with Tyreke Evans, it’s important first to establish what, in my opinion, makes a basketball player valuable to a given team.  As I’ve blogged elsewhere (here and here, if you’re interested), there are generally two components of good teams:

1. They have players who perform specific basketball roles (passing, shooting, penetrating, rebounding, defending).  Usually, the teams with five guys who play the five positions as they have traditionally been played are well on their way to ensuring that they have guys performing each of the necessary roles.

2.  They have players who are in the “right spot” on the roster to win.  This means that the team’s best player is good enough to be the best player on a good team, that its second best player is suited to be the second best player on a good team, etc.  Taking, say, the guy who was the best player on a decent team, and plugging him into a roster where he’s, say, the third-best player, does not necessarily lead to success.  (See, e.g., Bosh, Christopher.)

Any team that puts Tyreke Evans on its roster is essentially saying that they think they can ignore these hoopservations.  Well, ignore my hoopservations at your own peril, NBA GM’s.  Keep ignoring me, and you might wind up like the Kings.

To elaborate a bit:  Tyreke Evans does not fit into any of the five traditional roles on a basketball team.  They call him a “point guard,” but a PG’s primary job is to get his team a good shot (whether it’s him or someone else who shoots it).  Evans jacks up a bunch of bad shots.  To be sure, Derrick Rose is not a traditional PG, either, and his shooting percentage is not particularly high, yet the Bulls are doing just fine.  That’s true, but it doesn’t validate Evans.  It merely leads to the second point…

Evans dominates the ball.  He’s not going to be the third guy on a good team — it’s just not his nature.  If he’s on your team, he’s one of the top dogs.  That’s true of Rose, too. The difference is that Rose is good enough to handle the load.  Evans just isn’t as good as Rose.  Once you step outside of the paradigm of the traditional positions, you have to be extra good to make it work.

At bottom, a team that has Evans is trapped.  It can’t add other stars, because his game just isn’t designed to complement other star players.  Yet, it won’t ever be good because, well, he’s just not good enough to be a lead player on a good team.  Thus, while he is “talented” in terms of being fast, strong, and agile, and also “skilled” in terms of being able to dribble and potentially do some other things, there is no reason to put him on your roster.  He’s kind of like Jerry Stackhouse, who scored lots of points and had lots of skills, but, when all was said and done, played in the league for 14 years and only once was an important player on a team that went deep into the playoffs (the ’05-’06 Mavs).

Is he literally the least valuable player in the league?  I dunno.  What I know is that, if I were running an NBA team, I wouldn’t want him in my starting lineup.  And when the time came to fill out my bench, I certainly wouldn’t look for a guy like him.  In any event, even if it made sense from a basketball standpoint, he’s going to command enough money that it doesn’t make sense from a financial standpoint to have him on your bench.  My advice to all of the NBA GM’s reading this (ahem) is let someone else pay him that money.

The Sports Guy should know better.

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