TORONTO - Reggie Evans goes under the knife on Thursday to repair a broken right foot.
There is no question the Raptors will miss his rebounding, his endless energy and the impromptu pep talks which, based on the past few days, aren’t going to stop.
DeMar DeRozan was telling of another Evans “lecture” just the other day.
No one knows at this point how long Evans will be out. That will be determined down the road. Bottom line, he’s not coming back in a couple of weeks so the Raptors are going to have to get by without him for a while which is going to mean change, but not necessarily change for the worse.
If you want to really get honest about it, there’s an opportunity here for the Raptors.
As good as Evans is for the club, there’s a price to be paid for having Reggie Evans in your starting lineup.
For every board he pulls down, for every extra possession he gets you on offence, there’s a downside to his presence.
With Evans in the lineup, the Raptors are basically playing four-on-five every time they’re facing the opponent’s basket. As skilled as Evans is at hitting the glass — and there are few in the league better — he puts the club at a distinct disadvantage offensively.
This is not a knock on Evans nor news to him. How could anyone in good conscience knock a guy who gives his all every time he takes the floor.
But Evans does have limitations and he knows them. He is not a scorer. He’s not even a particularly adept passer.
There’s a reason he readily agrees to kick it out after just about every rebound he pulls down. Evans knows, just as the coaching staff knows, that the chances of a bucket are much better with any of the other four on the floor taking the shot regardless what combination Jay Triano has out there at any particular time.
Evans gets more out of his skill set than most players in the NBA could ever dream, but putting the ball in the hoop is not part of that skill set.
It is for that reason that Evans can be extremely successful pulling down rebounds and still put his team at a disadvantage at the same time.
Using the controversial plus/minus statistic that has been such a popular tool in hockey circles but not so much in basketball, Evans is a team-worst minus-105 this season. That means that when he has been on the floor, his team has scored exactly 105 points less than the opposition.
The fact that he is a minus isn’t a surprise given the Raptors’ struggles this year, but the gap between himself and the next-worst Raptor is substantial. Andrea Bargnani is second to last in that statistic among Raptors and he’s a minus-80. Leading the team is Amir Johnson, one of Evans’ would-be fill ins. When Johnson is on the floor, the Raptors are a plus-36.
While the plus-minus statistic is in no way a perfect measurement of a single player’s impact on the game — no one statistic is — it is an indication of just how much scoring drops off when Evans is on the floor.
The opportunity for the Raptors in Evans injury is they are now forced to go in another direction. As poor a rebounding team as this franchise has been over the past couple of years, choosing to sit a terrific man on the glass like Evans was not an easy choice to make.
Now they have no choice, which opens up a door for the likes of Joey Dorsey, Amir Johnson or even rookie Ed Davis.
Like Evans, all three have limitations in their game. And it’s a fair assumption to make that none of the three can duplicate what Evans does on the boards. But none of the three puts the Raptors in the same four-on-five bind that Evans does either.
All three — to varying degrees — can score.
Head coach Jay Triano started Dorsey in place of Evans on Sunday. It could be Dorsey starting again tonight against the Washington Wizards or it could be Amir Johnson. Triano has yet to decide although Davis will definitely not start.
Regardless which of the three are in the game, the Raptors may just find out that as popular as Evans is with the fans and his teammates, the alternatives might not be so bad.