By JOSH DUBOW AP Sports Writer
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sacramento point guard Tyreke Evans beat out Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings to win the NBA Rookie of the Year award on Thursday.
“This is one of the awards I had a goal of since I came into the NBA, being rookie of the year,” Evans said. “I’m proud it came true. It was one of my dreams since I was little. I finally had a chance for my dream to come true.”
Evans became the fourth rookie ever to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game, joining Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James in an exclusive club.
Evans was the fourth pick in last year’s NBA draft after spending one season at Memphis. He led all rookies in scoring at 20.1 points per game, was second in assists at 5.8 per game and fifth in rebounds at 5.3
Evans was the only rookie to appear on all 123 ballots from a media panel, getting 67 first-place votes and 491 total points. Curry was second with 43 first-place votes and 391 points, with Jennings getting 12 first-place votes and 204 points. Players were awarded five points for a first-place vote, three for a second and one for a third.
While Jennings got off to a fast start, scoring 55 points in his seventh career game, and Curry finished the season with a flourish, Evans was consistently strong all season long.
Evans drew praise from around the league, with Kobe Bryant calling him a “grown man” when asked to assess the rookie race after playing Curry and Evans in successive nights in March.
Evans’ performance this season brought life back to Arco Arena, where fans had grown disinterested in recent years as the Kings struggled. There was even a rally planned at a Sacramento mall on Thursday night in Evans’ honor.
Evans erased any disappointment from last year’s lottery, when the Kings ended up with the fourth pick in the draft despite having the league’s worst record.
With top pick Blake Griffin sidelined for the season for the Los Angeles Clippers with a knee injury, second pick Hasheem Thabeet spending part of the season for Memphis in the NBA Development League and fifth pick Ricky Rubio staying in Europe instead of signing with Minnesota, there were no regrets in Sacramento with how the draft played out.
After a disappointing home opener when he scored only three points and didn’t make a shot from the field, Evans took over the Kings after leading scorer Kevin Martin went down with an early injury. He scored at least 20 points in seven consecutive games.
Evans was remarkably consistent, averaging between 19.4 points and 22.1 points per game in every full month of the season.
“He’s the most consistent rookie I’ve ever seen,” coach Paul Westphal said. “There’s nothing but a great career in Tyreke’s future. Knowing him, I know he doesn’t view this as an achievement. It’s just a start to his career.”
Curry, the son of former NBA player Dell Curry, might have been playing better than any rookie by the end of the season. He averaged 17.5 points, a rookie-best 5.9 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game for the Warriors.
But he was much better in the final three months, averaging 21.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game after Feb. 1. That vaulted him right into the rookie race, giving Northern California NBA fans something worthwhile to follow while the Warriors and Kings struggled through another difficult season.
Jennings entered the league with plenty of scrutiny after bypassing college to play last season in Italy. He immediately quieted the skeptics with the highest-scoring game for a rookie in 41 years against Golden State in November.
He averaged 15.5 points, 5.7 assists and 3.4 rebounds for the season, but shot just 37 percent from the floor. The one major advantage Jennings had over Evans and Curry was that he helped lead Milwaukee to the playoffs, while Sacramento and Golden State are back in the lottery again.