Reggie Evans’ value to the 2010-11 Toronto Raptors is difficult to deny — the Raptors are 9-13 when he plays and 11-37 when he doesn’t — so it might seem like a no-brainer that they should attempt to re-sign him to a reasonable contract when he becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season. I prefer to actually use my brain when I consider these options, so let’s determine how Reggie fits in with the future of this team.
There may not be another player in the NBA whose game is easier to break down than Reggie’s. He’s a phenomenal rebounder, a willing but limited defender, and an absolutely atrocious offensive player. If you dispute any of these descriptions, you haven’t watched him play for at least 10 minutes. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to overstate how incredibly great he is at rebounding and how astonishingly bad he is offensively.
Basketball-Reference.com defines Total Rebounding Percentage (TRB%) as “an estimate of the percentage of available rebounds a player grabbed while he was on the floor.” Their statistic requirement to qualify for the career TRB% rankings is a minimum of 5,000 rebounds — Reggie has 3,895 career rebounds so he doesn’t qualify yet. Only three qualifying players have or had career TRB% of over 20 percent: Dennis Rodman (23.44%), Dwight Howard (20.90%) and Swen Nater (20.85%). Evans’ career TRB% is 21.0, which would rank him second all-time since the 1970-71 season when Basketball-Reference starts tracking this stat. In layman’s terms, this means he isn’t just one of the most effective rebounders in the game, he’s one of the all-time greats. Although it’s in a small sample size of 596 minutes, his 26.5% rate this season is his career-best and has only been topped by Rodman (twice) in the past 40 seasons, with a 500-minute minimum.
So he’s an elite rebounder, we all know this. Now, let’s look at his offense. He’s only taken 70 field goal attempts this season and he’s made 27 of them for a dismal .386 field goal percentage. When you break down his shooting numbers by distance from the basket, you really get a sense of how limited his offensive game is: according to hoopdata.com, he’s 23-for-48 on the season around the rim and 4-for-22 from three feet away and beyond. Basically, he should never shoot unless he’s directly under the basket. Since the league average FG% for shots around the rim is 64.5%, Reggie’s 47.9% success rate is comparatively poor even from that range.
82games.com measures the effect Reggie has on the Raptors’ offense when he’s on the floor — they’ve scored 5.1 fewer points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor compared to when he’s on the bench. Comparatively, they allow 0.2 points more per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor, so his effect on team defense appears to be a wash. With this in mind, his rebounding doesn’t appear to cancel out the significant flaws in his game.
I have no doubt that Reggie Evans has a place as a ninth or 10th man on an NBA team — he does one thing very, very well and he’s made it this far with that one skill. But where does he fit in on a rebuilding team that needs to develop its young players? Based on the evidence at hand, does it really make sense to keep him around to take minutes away from Amir Johnson and Ed Davis?
Reggie’s a good guy and a fan favorite and I know that many Raptors fans would be sad to see him go. But when you consider his pros and cons, the state of this franchise, and the fact that his injury history makes him an extremely risky investment, the $3-4 million per season he’ll probably earn on his next contract would be better used elsewhere on the Raptors.