Does Tyreke Really Need to Improve His Jump Shot?

Published: April 17, 2014

No matter how good a player is, the focus always seems to be on what he needs to improve. And make no mistake, even the all-time greats had weaknesses; nobody is a perfect basketball player. The tendency then, is to talk about what the player needs to improve in order to get better, but what people tend to forget is that sometimes improving in one area might have unintended negative consequences in other areas.

Would it be nice if Tyreke Evans had a more consistent jump shot? Sure, I am not going to sit here and advocate for a guy to miss jump shots rather than make them. But, let’s not ignore the possible dangers either. If you grew up watching basketball in the 90’s, you probably remember Patrick Ewing as a great jump shooting center. He didn’t start off that way, though. Initially, he was extremely raw offensively and was much closer to Tyson Chandler or Andre Drummond than what he became later in his career. As any Knick fan from back then and they will tell you that they hated when he started hitting his jumper, because that meant he would fall in love with it and he would stop posting up. Early on, Ewing regularly shot 55 – 57% from the field, but once he started focusing on his jumper, those numbers plummeted to 46 – 48%.

Ewing became more versatile, but by turning a weakness into a quasi-strength, he also sacrificed what was already clearly a strength for him and his overall game suffered as a result. And it is not like Patrick Ewing is the only example of this; it is quite common. In fact, let’s talk about an even better comparison for Tyreke.

The Case of Rajon Rondo

If you read my articles or listen to the podcast, you probably know that I think that ‘a bigger Rajon Rondo’ is the best player comparison for Tyreke. They are two guys who can get into the paint at will, rebound well for guards, are terrors in the open court, and can get their teammates easy looks. For years, people said that Rondo needed only a better jump shot to make himself an elite guard. But guess what happened? He improved that shot and has now started to fall in love with it and because of that we just witnessed the least efficient season of his career.

Coming into this season, Rondo’s three-point rate was under 6 percent. This season, it is at nearly 26 percent! At his peak, he was taking nearly 56% of his shots within three feet of the basket. This season, just 32.6% of his shots are from within three feet. And it’s no surprise that with more threes and less shots at the rim, his free throw rate has plummeted as well – from as high as 41% his rookie year to just 19% this year.

Fans and even stat geeks like myself love the three, because hitting it at even a decent rate is so much more valuable than hitting twos at good rates, but for special talents like Rondo, that just doesn’t hold up. At his peak, Rondo was shooting 65% at the rim, meaning that he would have to hit 44% of his threes to be more efficient from beyond the arc as he was at the rim. Now I know that we have this unproven, yet somehow prevailing logic that “If a guy is a threat from the outside, it makes it easier for him to get to the rim. It opens up other parts of his game.”

If that is true, then why does Rondo’s highest FG percentage at the rim coincide with the seasons that he took the fewest jump shots and his lowest FG percentages at the rim coincide with the years he took the most threes? The fact is that guys like Rondo and Tyreke can get to the basket at will, and they don’t even need the threat of a jumper to do so. If you play too far off them, it gives them a chance to get their momentum up and they will hit you with a eurostep that you can’t defend. If you crowd them, they get right past you and use strength (Evans) or creativity (Rondo) to finish.

Honestly, the trick to guys like this is not to necessarily improve on their weaknesses, but to get them on the court with the right complimentary pieces. Rondo and Evans can get past the first guy every time. What they have problems with are the second and third guy waiting for them at the rim if you don’t have an offensive weapon on the court that the defense has to worry about. Perhaps adding a better mid-range jumper helps in those situations – something Rondo did even in the years he was going to the rim a lot – but, a three-point shot is not something that needs to be the focus of either guys’ game for them to be an elite offensive player.

What Should Evans Work On?

If Evans improves his mid-range and three-point shot, and let’s say he improves both by 5%, that would only have added 27 points to his season totals this year. If he were to add a field goal percentage increase of 5% on his shots between 0-3 feet, he would have added 56 points to his season total. Extend that to all of the shots in the paint and you are looking at adding a total of 84 additional points to his season total.

It just makes sense for him to take the thing that he does at an elite level (get to the rim) and improve on the secondary part of the equation (finishing at the rim). An increase in explosiveness could help him finish, as could improvement in his technique – Evans takes his eyes off the rim before he finishes quite often. In fact, improving his vision when he drives hard will help in other areas too. Evans has had shooters open on numerous occasions when the defense collapses and there is almost always a lob opportunity when AD is on the court.

Does that mean he should completely ignore his jump shot? Of course not. The summer should never be used to work exclusively on one or two aspects of your game. A player should always be improving, both physically and mentally. The mid-range shot off the dribble should be a focus as well, as he gets that shot quite often when he curls off a screen and his defender goes under. In one summer, Rajon Rondo went from a 32% shooter on his mid-range jumpers to a 46% shooter on that same shot. That same year, Rondo’s three-point rate actually went down and his true shooting percentage took the biggest jump of his career.

Another thing that Tyreke can stand to improve on is his post game. He has posted up just 56 times this year. The good news? He got fouled on 11 of those attempts. The bad news?  He turned the ball over on 15 of those possessions. The in between news is that he went just 10 of 28 on post ups. Next season, he will likely exclusively play at one of the guard positions, meaning that he should have either a strength or a foot quickness advantage over his defender (sometimes both). Evans would be smart to improve his post game, both learning how to score out of it and pass out of it when teams double. Imagine Tyreke on a smaller guard in the post with Anderson, Holiday, and Morrow around the three-point line and Davis spotting up at 17 feet, willing to rim run if his defenders leaves to double.


Tyreke Evans can stand to improve his outside shot, but it should not be the top priority this summer. Evans has never had even an average jump shot and he has been able to dominate games in spite of that. His ability to get to the rim and his brute strength combined with his quickness and phenomenal ball handling is what makes him unique in this league. There are hundreds of guys who can shoot the ball from the perimeter, and several of them on this roster in fact. The move should not be to make Evans more like them, instead it should be to take his strengths and take what he does well to the next level. A Tyreke Evans who can finish at the rim at a higher level and dominate smaller guards in the post will be a one-of-a-kind weapon.

That is the foundation of his game. Make the foundation as strong as possible. Work on the landscaping later.


  1. GerryV

    April 17, 2014 at 10:01 am

    If Evans improves his jumper ( which he must) it would also open the doors for others to further expand their game…creates more play room. If a player returns and has improved 2 key areas of his game thats tremendous.
    a- the 3-ball
    b- the pull up mid-range
    c- enhance his court vision off the dribble
    d- defensive play needs a lil tweaking as well.
    You say there are lots of shooters in the league…in this case having a multi talented scorer is a must

    If Evans returns with a legit splasher his contributions will move him up from a 2 bedroom condo to the upper level suite.

  2. Michael McNamara

    April 17, 2014 at 10:07 am

    GerryV  This is always the response with no data to back it up. As I said in the piece, if this is true, then why did Rondo’s shooting percentage at the rim drop after his jump shooting improved? 
    While it is SOMETIMES true, it is not NECESSARILY true.

  3. GerryV

    April 17, 2014 at 10:08 am

    Four levels:
    a-full court.( advance and read the floor)
    b-long distance
    d-restricted area
    Getting to those spots from cuts which  lead to catches which lead to shots or actions towards the rim which can lead to scores or tossing scoring passes expands the offensive horizon.

  4. GerryV

    April 17, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Michael McNamara GerryV  teams took away the rim due to his ability to drive the lane and coaches told him he needed to improve the jumper.Defenses would back off him in fear of his driving ability. Plus injuries hampered his lift…Its not that complicated…talented offensive players with a solid off the dribble game will be given space to deny them the driving lane.You combat that by making them have to guard you.You add a weapon to your game. 

    Magic had to improve  the jumper….Jordan had to add strength  plus add the mid-range game as the Pistons would slaughter his drives to the lane…..he also spent time stretching his range and over a few years added the post up game.
    At times data fails to explain the physical/health aspects of the game  and the impact it has on a players performance. The smart ones now you need something to counter what you do best.Takes some a few season to see this.
    It doesn’t always have to be complicated.

  5. GerryV

    April 17, 2014 at 10:37 am

    Improving in one area could have a negative impact on another area of a players game if the player allows that to happen…you also see a drop in production due to defensive preparation for that player as his pet move is taken away and he must add a counter….coaches and players must remind themselves by studying the tape what the player is doing differently and how it has altered his game.

  6. Jason Quigley

    April 17, 2014 at 10:52 am

    I don’t really see why post game was included…I see mid-range and the 3pt line as the #1 priority, but hopefully he won’t have to do those as much, you know? With better players around him, he’ll have much more space to be able to drive more easily and finish, or kick it out to Anderson, Holiday, Morrow, Gordon, Smith, Davis, and Ajinça at mid-range, etc. I’d say Rondo’s inefficient season has a lot to do with the fact that 1) he was coming back from a huge injury, and 2) the Celtics didn’t exactly have the best talent around him, compared to every other year he’s played there, where he had Garnett and Pierce, and Allen for most of those years.

  7. SportsPillowTlk

    April 17, 2014 at 10:55 am

    I don’t think you should use Rondo as an example. Rondo is coming off of a major knee injury where the first season you are always going to question your self , especially going into the lane. There looks like a lot more hesitation to his game, but in my opinion thats normal coming back from an ACL reconstruction. The second reason, is that he’s not motivated with his current team. He’s going to settle for some lazy jump shooting, until he has talented players at his disposal.

    I do agree he needs to improve his midrange jumper and his post game, I think everyone can agree with that after looking at his shooting charts which are actually pretty comical. Depending on what position he will play, his post game can be very important. Imagine him wearing out Monte Ellis or Curry.

  8. Steven J

    April 17, 2014 at 10:58 am

    I agree and disagree with the Rondo aspect. Sure his effectiveness went down, but there are so many other aspects to be considered. I agree with you that it is better to put him on the court with complimentary pieces. But I’d attribute his downfall this season to that aspect, not the fact that he tried to improve his shooting. Rondo’s game has always been about his surroundings and add to that he came off an ACL injury. Just imagine Tyreke in his situation, same skills, but he can pass out to Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, KG, etc. to hit a jump shot. Take those out and he’s a fish out of water. I’d agree that Tyreke shouldn’t worry about his 3 pointer though, just improve that midrange a little.

  9. 6thMan

    April 17, 2014 at 10:58 am

    I agree with MM: Let’s focus on Monty improving next year by more often placing Tyreke in situations where he can thrive — ie, surrounded by much better perimeter players & no Stiesma types. Clearly Tyreke needs to start at G – SG on D and PG on O.
    MM’s best point — 100% correct — Tyreke cannot be guarded by playing off him: He gathers steam, goes right at the defender forcing him on to his heels, and then does that incredible spin move. It truly can only be stopped by a secondary or tertiary defender. Where improved shooting does come into play (which MM does not mention) is at the end of the shot clock, where the option of NOT having to pass (ie, taking the shot) really does help someone like Tyreke. Gosh, he’s one exciting player – someone I would pay (and in re-upping my season tics, am paying) to see play. My lone concern for Tyreke’s otherwise brilliant future: Monty’s dreadful, uninspired coaching.

  10. bradlaborde

    April 17, 2014 at 11:16 am

    I agree. 
    I don’t want a situation where Tyreke considers cutting a drive short for a pull up jumper.  Don’t even put it in his head.   He is too valuable at getting to the rim. Decision making while driving and overall ball handling should be the focus.  Long 2’s should be de-emphasized on this team anyway.  Too many of them.  Should be considered a 3rd and final option (behind driving and shooting a 3).   
    With that said, Reke needs help in the shooting mechanics dept.  I’m not a shooting coach or more than a fan/viewer of basketball, but Tyreke’s shot is all over the place.  On 3’s, his shooting arch vaires and he often lands oddly (falling away and landing on 1 foot with the other foot elevated in front of him–odd).  His free throw motion ranges between line drives and mid arching shots.
    As you said, the pieces seem to be in place.  The team has specialized roles:::Reke driving, with AD down low, and floor spacers (Jrue, Morrow, Anderson).  Reke should work on his game in that capacity because he will never be as good as the players currently in those roles.

  11. otherMark

    April 17, 2014 at 11:58 am

    I don’t have stats to back it up, but I suggest Tony Parker as a counter-example.  He has always been able to get to the rim and convert at a freakish rate, and early in his career the pick-your-poison defense on him was to let him have open jumpers (just like Evans and Rondo).  As I say, I don’t have stats in hand, but it certainly seems like Parker has worked to develop his shooting range and accuracy, without sacrificing his aggressiveness in attacking the hoop. As for why he has escaped the trap of settling for jumpers at the cost of his driving attacks, it probably helps that Parker is very smart and plays for a smart coach in a smart offense. Also, his team is not reliant on him alone to generate points, so he knows he can be selective about his shooting decisions.  Anyway, maybe Tyreke Evans can develop his jump-shot without losing his bullying, slashing ways.

  12. 504ever

    April 17, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Yes and no.  I agree that getting better and complimentary offensive players around Evans is probably the most important step.  I disagree that Evans adding something to his offensive game is bad.
    My analogy for Evans is the ultimate Point Forward: Magic Johnson.  They are both big bully ball drivers who can pass too.  Magic was a better passer (hence the name Magic) but a poorer driver.  What Magic first added to his game was a 3pt set shot, and I think that would be a great addition for Evans.  Evans will be balanced while shooting, or faking the 3 pt shot, and better able to get around a defender advancing to close on the 3 pt attempt.  By not adding a midrange shot, Evans can’t settle for a shot in the “dumb zone”.  It’s either a 3 pt shot or his specialty, a drive and finish or dish.  That should lead to increased offensive efficiency for Evans and the team.  Bring it on!

  13. GerryV

    April 17, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    otherMark  Yes Parker ver the years had added to his game as e now has a legit jumper to compliment what i think is a brilliant off the dribble collection of moves.

  14. GerryV

    April 17, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    bradlaborde  todays guards need the floater in their offensive bag…defenses are too well prepared ( the better teams)..finish or floaters and pull-ups …..

  15. PelicanSaints

    April 17, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    In his post game interview with Jen Hale,Tyreke said he will definitely work on his mid range in the off season……I watched him work out about an hour before a game recently with an assistant coach. ….They spent a lot of time shooting threes ……..and he did hit a fair amount of them. ….I think he is comparable in some ways to James Harden. …Tyreke expanding his game can only help the Pelicans. …

  16. soulbreaker

    April 17, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    PelicanSaints agree completely, Harden is a much better comparison than Rondo, with the difference being Harden can shoot 3s

  17. Michael McNamara

    April 17, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    otherMark  Actually, Parker would support my argument. His three worst years were his first three. In those years he had BY FAR his highest three point rates (30%, 23%, and 20%). In his best years, only 3-5% of his shots were threes. And while he took more mid-range jumpers, the numbers say he never really made a huge improvement there. Was 42% his rookie year and that was his highest before last season. 
    Parker’s growth came with his ability to finish at the rim better and with the Spurs spacing the floor and adding more spacing with shooters. He actually might be a better example to use than Rondo. Thanks!

  18. Michael McNamara

    April 17, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    soulbreaker PelicanSaints  So then, what is similar between Harden and Evans?
    This article does not say that Evans shouldn’t improve his jumper, just that it should come third after
    1.) Improving his ability to finish at rim
    2.) Improve in post

  19. Michael McNamara

    April 17, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    Jason Quigley  What guards could cover Evans in the post if he greatly improved it? And if he demanded doubles, how great would that be for everyone else with his passing ability? People think of Lebron’s evolution as being due to his jumper, but opponents will say that his post game has been what makes him nearly unguardable now. I mean, really, what would teams do with Tyreke in the post?

  20. otherMark

    April 17, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    Michael McNamara otherMarkHey, I said I didn’t have the stats. In fact, I said it twice! 🙂  Your analysis is interesting to me, because my (sparse) observations of him led me to believe that his jump shooting has improved to the point where he can’t be left open by defenders, and so his drives are now even more open.  Is it possible that he was left open because of his poor shooting early, and then once he started reliably hitting unguarded jumpers the defensive strategy changed – leading to a net neutral effect on his jump-shooting percentage (because his outside shots are now being contested) but an overall positive from opening up driving lanes?

  21. Michael McNamara

    April 17, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    otherMark Michael McNamara  Its possible. 
    And I was being sincere, not sarcastic. Forgot about Parker. An even better comparison. 
    But to me, I think it is too coincidental that his fg% at the rim skyrocketed at the Spurs pace went from one of the slowest in the league to one of the fastest, and their 3-point rate did too. To me, I think that is where the space comes from if I had to guess.

  22. bradlaborde

    April 17, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    GerryV bradlaborde Is “the floater” an efficient shot?

  23. bradlaborde

    April 17, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    504ever Yep, I’d work on his shot in general. 
    A cross sport example (I know, stupid): Tyreke is like a mobile QB.  Don’t try to make him a pocket passer.  Work to his strengths.  If not, you won’t get 4/$44M out of him.

  24. PelicanSaints

    April 17, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    Similar in size,quickness and ability to get to the rim and draw fouls. … Tyreke can’t shot as well as Harden, but he can take over a game on occasion like Harden. ….

  25. Michael McNamara

    April 17, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    Easiest way to debate data people – I have no data of my own, but X is the conventional wisdom so it must be X. Your data fails to account for X for some reason. Darn faulty data!
    And what can I say to that. If innuendo trumps facts, then debate is pointless

  26. Jason Quigley

    April 17, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    And what guards have “great’ post-up games? Lebron is not a guard (though…in general people shouldn’t be compared to Lebron). And since we’ll probably have Monty playing ‘Reke at the 3, I don’t think he’d be going against many guards, or at least small ones. 
    What would other teams do with him in the post? I’d assume they’d get whatever center they have on the floor come play help defense and alter whatever he tries to do, since we can’t have Davis on the floor constantly (or he’d be playing with another big).

  27. Sportnlyfe

    April 17, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    Jason Quigley  Actually, I think you just proved McNamara’s point. If Reke’s not doubled, he punishes the guard by walking him under the rim. And if the center doubles Tyreke in the post, that leaves an unguarded Pelican big under the basket. A simple pass defeats the double team strategy. 
    Sure, there have been some problems this season with Reke making that pass out of the double team, but with a summer to coordinate with Ajinca and Withey, they’ll get it so it’s automatic. Tyreke already knows that he just has to get the ball up to the rim when Anthony Davis is on the floor, and AD will slam any misses through.

  28. Michael McNamara

    April 17, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    Jason Quigley  Monty was emphatic today that Evans was not a SF. Said he is a 1 or a 2 only. Teams wouldn’t have any answer for him in the post. If he develops that, its game over

  29. Pelican Poster

    April 17, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    Sportnlyfe Jason Quigley I likewise have wished to see Tyreke posting up…he is stronger than most all those he would do so against…of course, the offense would need to incorporate that aspect…I think he would dominate 95% of those he posted up if he worked on that and absolutely setup an open man when they double him

  30. PelicanSaints

    April 17, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    Michael McNamara Jason Quigley…Monty also indicated that he may consider bring Gordon in off the bench…..but, he said it was just a thought..Yeah right…if Dell can’t move him, he’ll be the sixth man…..

  31. NOEngineer

    April 18, 2014 at 3:44 am

    If improving his jumper means that he takes more of them, then it probably will hurt the team right now, since Tyreke does not need to use the threat of the jumper to get to the rim.   As he ages, he may need to shoot more jumpers, but not now.   What he needs is space right at the rim, not out near the foul line.  However, it is always good to have skills you don’t use unless they become necessary.   If you own the gun, you need to know both how to hit the target and when not to shoot it…..
    AD, on the other hand, needs to shoot enough of the dreaded mid-range jumper to get space so he can work inside.  He can finish at the rim, so it is worth investing in a few jumpers to loosen up driving lanes for him and Tyreke.  Withey, Ajinca, and Smith are not a threat to drive that well and finish at the rim (yet), so I don’t want them taking a bunch of jumpers.  Smith is a perfect example of a player who is in love with his jumper and suffers greatly in efficiency because of it.   For now, those guys need to move off the ball, make hard cuts, catch in traffic with strong hands, and upgrade their rebounding technique.   If they limit their shots to the ones they can make with high efficiency, then we are good.
    So, I think the point of the article is 100% valid.     We need guys to define their roles, strengthen the abilities that support those roles, avoid traps that weaken those roles, and limit “expansion” of their game to those things that add to the team’s efficiency.    Everybody except Davis and Aminu needs to work on rebounding technique, especially Miller, Anderson and the other big men.   Rivers and Evans need to finish better at the rim, but continue to take most of their shots there.   Withey needs to strengthen his lower body and hands, not take more jumpers.  Ajinca needs discipline with his reaching, and keep moving closer to the basket to get his shot.  Rivers needs to find open shooters in good spots, like Tyreke is doing.    Only Babbitt, Holliday, Morrow, Miller, Gordon, and Anderson should be increasing their 3-point rate.   They need to take 3s when they get the ball passed to them out there, and allow themselves to be fouled in that act rather than stepping into the dumb zone to avoid contact.   NObody should be increasing their dumb zone shot rate beyond what it is now, and several players need to decrease it (Miller, Rivers, Gordon).    Increasing shooting percentages is always great, of course, especially at the free throw line.

  32. GerryV

    April 21, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    otherMark Michael McNamara  Parker is and was flanked by a terrific stem that uses tremendous spacing and three ballers along with Duncan that creates havoc on defenses…the system is a joy to watch

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