Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
A simple lineup change has led to a resurgence from a once-star fantasy guard.
Sacramento Kings guard Tyreke Evans only averaged 11.6 points on 38.8 percent shooting in his first nine games despite starting all of them and playing slightly more than 32 minutes per game.
This is a player who has averaged 18 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.4 steals per game with a decent free-throw percentage in his career, but it looked as though we wouldn't see those stats again unless he somehow bought a ticket out of Sacramento.
That is, until Kings coach Keith Smart lived up to his surname by shaking things up for a 2-7 team. He parked starting point guard Isaiah Thomas and ball-stopping small forward James Johnson on the bench in place of Aaron Brooks and John Salmons.
Since the change, the Kings have gone 2-2 and Evans has surged, averaging 21.3 points on 52.5 percent shooting, 5.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.8 blocks in that span. If you need proof that Evans has been more aggressive in his last four games, look no further than his 5.8 free-throw attempts per game, up from 3.1 his first nine games.
Evans went 9-for-9 from the foul line and 9-of-17 from the field for a season- high 27 points Saturday against Utah and has made all 17 from the charity stripe over his last three games.
Brooks has played a role closer to that of a traditional shooting guard since he moved to the starting five, with Evans stepping up as the team's playmaker. In his last three games, Brooks has averaged 14.3 ppg, with 8.0 ppg coming from beyond the arc. He has only attempted one free throw with just eight total assists during that span.
Salmons, meanwhile, is a better offensive player than Johnson and opens up the floor more for Evans to create. Johnson shot just 31.8 percent from the field in his nine starts, going 21-of-66 overall and 0-of-8 from 3-point range.
The Kings had an atrocious plus/minus with their former starting lineup. According to 82games.com, Sacramento's unit of Thomas, Evans, Johnson, Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins is a minus-28 together. The team's best unit is its current starting five, outscoring opponents by 31.
The first unit is averaging just 0.92 points per possession, while the current group is at 1.27 ppp.
Smart is clearly committed to his new rotation, playing Thomas just over 12 minutes per game since he moved to the bench, including a DNP-CD on Nov. 23. In his last four games, Thomas has attempted just six field goals, making one.
The Kings play on the road against the Minnesota Timberwolves Tuesday night; we'll pay close attention to that one to see if Smart continues to employ Sacramento's most effective rotation or if he returns to using Thomas more often.
For fantasy owners, the buy-low window for Evans is still open while his ppg stands at 14.5, but it will shut quickly if the Kings keep the ball in his hands, and Thomas on the bench.