Don't forget about Tyreke Evans of Memphis. He is currently running the point for them and is doing a darn good job of it.
A mid-season position change that seems to have changed the complexion of his team's season is certainly a good enough reason to revisit the topic of one of the NCAA's most talented freshman. Tyreke Evans was asked to handle the point guard duties for Memphis full-time after a home loss to Syracuse that dropped his team out the top-25 for the first time in over three years, and his team is undefeated since. They are currently ranked 5th overall in the nation, and Evans in turn is gaining steam for being awarded national freshman of the year honors.
It's not quite clear why analysts (or his coaching staff for that matter) are so surprised at the success he's found at the point—it was after all the only position we've ever saw him play from watching him in high school, prep school and the AAU circuit over the last three years. Clearly he is not “learning the position from scratch” like many have suggested.
Playing on the ball full-time, Evans has improved his efficiency while developing into the #1 scorer in this freshman class—putting up a terrific 23 points per-40 minutes pace adjusted. He also ranks as one of the top rebounding guards in college basketball, pulling down over 7 per-40, and is also one of the top ball-thieves at 3.1 steals per-40. His productivity in those categories is terrific all things considered. The problem is that he's almost amongst the NCAA leaders in field goal attempts and turnovers (at a dismal 4.5 per-40), highlighting one of his biggest flaws—his shoot-first mentality.
It's pretty obvious what Evans offers as a prospect, as he's one of the premier shot-creators in the country, despite being only 19 years old. His combination of strength, aggressiveness and scoring instincts is almost unparalleled at this level, and should translate to the
NBAlevel effectively when you consider his terrific footwork, body control, and hesitation moves. He does an excellent job pushing the ball up the floor in transition, can create (and finish) with either hand almost equally as well, and is an absolute bulldozer slashing his way through the paint and creating contact at the rim. While not an incredible leaper, Evans knows how to get to the free throw line, which helps minimize the fact that he's not an incredible finisher percentage wise (just 50%). He's also become pretty effective at finding teammates off the dribble, which has helped him rack up a decent amount of assists.
Defensively, Evans has gotten better as the season has moved on, particularly on the ball. His terrific wingspan helps him tremendously in terms of contesting shots on the perimeter, and his excellent knack for getting in the passing lanes makes him a true nuisance with the way Memphis likes to press. Evans loses his focus from time to time in the half-court and tends to get out of his stance, also not doing a great job fighting through ball-screens. His potential on this end is impressive, though, and it wouldn't be shocking to see him be able to defend both guard positions in the NBA when it's all said and done.
As a point guard, Evans has been mostly a mixed bag. On one hand, he obviously possesses excellent basketball instincts and has a great sense for making plays for himself and others. Memphis is running a lot more pick and roll than they did last season, and Evans shows great potential in this area. The problem is that he's an incredibly ball-dominant point guard, often looking like a fish out of water when he's forced to give up the rock for more than a few seconds. Memphis' offense often looks quite stagnant, with Evans over-dribbling the ball at the top of the key as his four teammates stand around and twiddle their thumbs. He can be pretty sloppy with the ball at times, displaying questionable decision-making skills and incredibly poor shot-selection, which wouldn't be as much of an issue if he was able to make shots at a respectable rate from the perimeter.
With his poor shooting mechanics (he fades away unnecessarily on every attempt) Evans is very streaky with his feet set in catch and shoot situations, and downright dreadful shooting the ball off the dribble. He only converts a dismal 25% of his jump-shots according to Synergy Sports Technology, but the problem is that he settles for them on a regular basis—they make up about 40% of his possessions, often with a hand in his face and early in the shot clock no less. While his skill-set may develop in time, Evans' mentality looks extremely questionable—it's hard not to come away with the impression that he's a pretty selfish player. He's likely going to have to revamp his shooting stroke entirely if he's to ever become even a decent threat from the NBA 3-point line, something he's been unwilling to do up until this point.
There a couple of crucial judgments which will be made individually by each and every NBA team that will play a huge role in where Evans' draft stock ultimately lies. The first would be his likely position at the next level, point guard or shooting guard. The second would be whether he projects as a starter or backup at that position. The third would be whether he fits into what that team already possesses in terms of ball-handlers and outside shooters, as Evans clearly won't fit into every system. It would be very difficult to play him alongside another guard who is also not much of a threat from beyond the arc, as that would make things very easy on the defense. With the right teammates, though, and in a sparkplug/instant offense role, Evans could be very effective.
If Memphis is able to go on a deep run into the tournament, it wouldn't be shocking at all to see Evans' stock rise dramatically when it's all said and done.
Evans stock looks like it might pick up a little steam but I think he would be a solid 10-20 pick if he's still available. I guess it all depends on how Memphis does in the tournament.