Tyreke Evans is the NBA’s (only) Rookie of the Year

By: 04.28.10  •  48 Comments

Tyreke Evans (photo. Nicky Woo)

One of the great pains in the ass about working for Dime is that too many people are convinced we all think with the same brain.

We’ve got a whole team of talented and opinionated writers around here, so it’s annoying when I get e-mails and comments berating (or even praising) me for something that was written in someone else’s column. Usually I let it slide, though.

But then my man Aron Phillips got on this kick that Brandon Jennings should be NBA Rookie of the Year. Yesterday he amended it slightly, throwing in Tyreke Evans for a Co-R.O.Y. proposal. Since I’m already getting readers attacking me for the idea, so I had to make my views clear: As my Grandpa Jackson used to say, Aron is as wrong as two left feet.

“But while we wait for the official declaration to come from the League,” Aron wrote, “we thought this was as good a time as any to bring up the fact that we still feel Brandon Jennings is this year’s ROY, or should at least share the award with Evans.”

Nah man, I can’t co-sign that “we.” Tyreke Evans should be the one and only Rookie of the Year in 2010. No need for a dual press conference; no need to send that trophy anywhere but Sacramento.

I don’t need to argue too hard to show why Tyreke (20.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 5.8 apg) should be the solitary winner. You already know he was only the fourth rookie — alongside Oscar, Mike and LeBron — to average at least 20 points, five boards and five dimes. You know he went to Sacramento and gorilla-pimped “The Franchise” status from Kevin Martin so swiftly that K-Mart was traded in the middle of the season. You know Tyreke made game-winners against Brandon Jennings, led a historic 35-point comeback against Derrick Rose, put up one triple-double and two other stat lines that were one rebound or one assist shy of a triple-double. You know he gave everybody from D-Will to Kobe to Chauncey major-league buckets. He was the best player in the ’09 Draft and had the best season of any rookie.

What has to be argued here is why Jennings — as much as I’ve been in his corner since he was a sophomore in high school — doesn’t deserve a share of the trophy.

The popular pro-Jennings argument consists of three parts:
1. His team made the playoffs.
2. Tyreke’s team didn’t.
3. Jennings scored 55 in one game.

Maybe this wasn’t clear in November, but by now we all know that any stats compiled in a game involving the ’09-10 Golden State Warriors comes with a free asterisk (which is why Stephen Curry deserves to finish no higher than 3rd in R.O.Y. voting.) I watched that Warriors/Bucks game when Jennings went off: He was shooting wide open jumpers for three quarters. Not to disrespect on the man’s accomplishment, but Jacque Vaughn would have dropped about 38 that night. Ray Allen would have scored 107.

Brandon Jennings

Playoffs? (Playoffs? Don’t talk about playoffs!) Yes, Jennings is the starting point guard on an NBA playoff team that just might pull a first-round upset, and point guards should be judged on wins and losses. And yes, Tyreke was the PG of a Kings team that won less games (25) than he won in one year at Memphis (33).

But there was a lot more to Milwaukee’s turnaround than just Jennings. Between John Salmons, Andrew Bogut and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute are better than any wing scorer, big man or defender Tyreke has on his team. Carlos Delfino would be a full-time starter in Sacramento rather than a part-time starter in Milwaukee. Not to mention the contributions of Ersan Ilyasova, Kurt Thomas, Luke Ridnour and Jerry Stackhouse, plus Coach of the Year runner-up Scott Skiles. Hell, Charlie Bell is better than any perimeter defender the Kings have, and he can barely get off the bench for the Bucks. In other words Milwaukee GM John Hammond didn’t win Executive of the Year solely because he gambled a Top-10 pick on Jennings. Hammond made the moves that have made Milwaukee CLEARLY a better team top-to-bottom than Sacramento.

And let’s not forget the solid month (at least) in the middle of the season when Jennings hit the rookie wall hard and nearly disappeared from a R.O.Y. race that was his to lose after the 55-point game. While I can’t even front on Young Money’s playoff performance so far, I also can’t forget that he shot 37.1% from the field in the regular season. Meanwhile, Tyreke was consistent throughout the year and shot 45% from the field with defenses geared mostly to stop him every night.

I love Brandon Jennings’ game, and I like him as a person. He’s a ‘hood success story and a solid guy that I’d want my little nephews to look up to. He’s already a star in the NBA, and on track to becoming a superstar. He’ll rack up All-Star appearances, endorsements and maybe even an assist title in the years to come.

But he shouldn’t be Rookie of the Year, Co-Rookie of the Year, or Tri-Rookie of the Year in 2010. You want to reward Jennings for a stellar opening season in the League? That playoff bonus check is reward enough.

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