When Ivy Hoops Online last left Tosan Evbuomwan, he was in the mildly perilous spot of playing out a 10-day contract, no future NBA home secured.
Worry no longer; Despite the Memphis Grizzlies letting him leave after four games, Evbuomwan quickly signed a new 10-day deal with the Detroit Pistons and subsequently was converted onto a two-way deal in Detroit announced Friday.
What does that mean? Evbuomwan is not part of the Pistons’ primary 15-man roster but takes one of three two-way spots. Thus the Pistons can have him on their bench for the rest of the season. He can still be sent back to the G-League, where he’d played for Detroit’s affiliate previously, but he now has a more established NBA home than when he was between the G-League and 10-day deals.
Signing a two-way deal now gives Detroit the ability to bring him back next season as well. It likely allows the Pistons the first chance to add him to their 15-man roster if another team pursues him this offseason.
With 27 games to go and little but pride to play for, the 8-47 Pistons should have some minutes Evbuomwan can absorb. Plenty of NBA players have showed enough on two-way contracts to get into regular rotations, and it’s not far-fetched to believe Tosan can do the same within the next few seasons.
Taking on Kevin Durant
I recapped Evbuomwan’s two most fruitful games with Memphis. While he’s only played eight minutes in Detroit, there was plenty to watch as he battled against Kevin Durant’s Phoenix Suns.
In a 116-100 loss in Phoenix on Valentine’s Day, Evbuomwan got real rotation minutes in the first half. He checked in with 5:37 left in the second quarter and the woeful Pistons already down 19. (Unlike the Knicks’ public address announcer, the Suns’ PA man pronounced his last name without issue!)
His defensive role at first was hanging with Eric Gordon and Suns’ tertiary guys. The Pistons forced a shot-clock violation in his first defensive possession, albeit with Evbuomwan mostly off-ball.
With Durant (lightly) guarding him on the other end, Tosan ended up handling the 14-time All-Star in some crossmatches. He held his own on a contest against KD at the rim and picked him up above the three-point arc and navigated a screen well while Durant fired a quality assist. He even earned his first career steal by getting back in transition and interrupting Durant in the open court.
For the last three minutes of the half, Evbuomwan took over as Durant’s primary defender. He fouled him navigating an off-ball screen, giving KD two free throws, but he did fine work staying with the former MVP in the mid-post. Still, Durant was able to use his 6-foot-11 frame to nail the jumper over the outstretched Ivy alum.
His defensive highlight of the night came in garbage time when he returned to the game for the final three minutes of the fourth quarter. Taking on Théo Maledon in transition, he stayed with the speedy guard step-for-step and avoided fouling. He ultimately forced Maledon into an errant floater while getting whistled for a travel.
That’s me in the corner
In Evbuomwan’s first half minutes, his teammates barely looked at him. His role was primarily to stand in the corner. He made some fine cuts and got into good offensive rebounding position twice but on shots the Pistons made.
For the rest of those five and half minutes, Tosan stood by as his teammates made some horrendous passes. Tossing crosscourt to no one, hitting people in the first row, etc. It wasn’t pretty and easily explained the Suns’ hefty advantage.
In garbage time to close the fourth, Evbuomwan was finally an active participant in the offense. He set a few pin-down screens for Mike Muscala and also set more screens for point guard Marcus Sasser.
Sasser and Evbuomwan had some decent chemistry after an early mishap. On their first pick and roll, Sasser’s dump-off past into the post was mediocre and Tosan couldn’t handle it, leading to the Pistons’ maintaining the ball out of bounds. The Pistons left him wide open in the corner on the next play and Sasser nailed him for an easy trey.
On the next possession, Tosan rolled after a screen up top for Sasser and again benefitted from a great wraparound pass from Sasser, scoring an easy layup.
Finally, Evbuomwan crashed the glass late and helped deflect a ball to Muscala for an easy layup.
He wasn’t asked to do much in the halfcourt defensively in garbage time. Funnily enough, it took until his fifth NBA game to guard an ex-teammate, assigned fellow former Grizzly David Roddy, who barely saw the ball. The closest thing to a highlight was when he gobbled up a contested rebound despite Saben Lee crashing the glass.
Look, it’s eight minutes and the Pistons are rough to watch. Despite a paucity of high-quality teammates, Evbuomwan is simply asked to be a role player. Five games into his NBA career, he’s handling that just fine. With a two-way contract secured, he’s going to get more chances from the back of the bench, an exciting moment for the Ivy League … even Penn fans like me.