Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Mystery of Ryan Evans

Back in January, Ken Pomeroy blogged about Ryan Evans's woes from the free throw line, labeling him "a once-in-a-generation case." That analysis has held up. Evans has been unable to improve at the line, at all, really, and will certainly finish the season shooting less than 45% on a ton of free throws. He has now gone to the gimmick of jump-shot free throws, but has continued to make about 40% of his attempts—which isn't too surprising, since he shoots about 40% (37% to be exact) on his all-too-frequent two-point jumpers during live action.

But this jump shooting stuff accentuates just how strange a case Ryan Evans is. If you look at the other terrible free throw shooters in college basketball, none of them are jump shooters. Ryan Evans is the only one among them who takes two-point jumpers as the majority of his shots. All the other guys are, as you'd expect, bruisers who don't take many shots away from the rim. Here's a chart of all the NCAA D-1 players who've attempted at least 100 free throws and made less than 50% of them:

(Source for two-point jumper data is

As you can see, 61% of Evans's shots from the field are two-point jumpers, and no one else in this group is above 46%. Excluding Evans, only 28% of the shots this group takes are two-point jumpers. This is not surprising. Since these guys are terrible at free throws, they are generally terrible at two-point jumpers and they generally refrain from taking them.

Evans is an extreme outlier. Not only does he take a lot of two-point jumpers despite being terrible at free throws, he is actually not particularly good at hitting the two-point jumpers he takes. This year he's hitting 37% of them. Among the other terrible free-throw shooters who take more than the occasional jumper (i.e., those who shoot 30% or more of their shots as two-point jumpers) the average make percentage is ... 37%.

I recognize this is not exactly a revelation, but it's hard not conclude that Ryan Evans should probably take fewer two-point jumpers. A lot of good things might happen if he did. First, his percentage would probably go up. Evans takes a lot of contested two-point jumpers, often falling away while doing so. These are terrible shots, and he rarely makes them. If he just eliminated those, he'd probably up his percentage quite a bit. Second, I'd rather have another player taking a three-pointer that he's got a 30% chance of making than have Evans take a two-pointer that he'a got a 40% chance of making. Obviously, the expected points of a 30% attempt at a three is about 0.9 points, while the expected value of a 40% attempt at a two is just 0.8 points. Moreover, if someone else is taking the shot, that lets Ryan Evans go for the offensive rebound—something he simply cannot do when he shoots a baseline jumper. So you'll get more points and probably get more offensive rebounds if someone else is taking a three in that scenario.

I doubt any of this will happen. If it was going to happen, it would have already. But who knows.


  1. What about Jontel Evans from UVa


  2. He didn't make it onto my radar because he's shot only 24 free throws this year. But his numbers are similar to other terrible free throw shooters: 41.6% from the line, 42% of his shots are 2pt jumpers, and he hits just 26% of them. Seems like he should take fewer jumpers, too. I guess the weirdest thing about him is that he's a 6' guard. Every player in the chart above is at least 6'6" except for Matt Smith of MS Valley State, who's 6'4" and probably plays forward for that terrible team.