Change is coming in Sacramento. Players, coaches, front office, ownership and even the franchise’s location is undecided for the 2013-14 season. In the uncertain world that is the NBA, nothing compares to what is happening in Kingsland.
While the Kings’ front office should be scouting and prepping for an incredibly important off-season, they are instead preparing to load up their personal belongings. One way or another, this group will not be making the next round of roster decisions and there are plenty to make.
Once again, the Kings sit on the bottom of the Western Conference. At 21-42, the Kings own the NBA’s fourth worst record and will once again be picking high in the lottery. This is starting to feel a little bit like the directions on the back of a shampoo bottle: lather, rinse and repeat.
There are also two major roster decisions that need to be made (although DeMarcus Cousins has pretty much made one of those for the Kings). Cousins is up for an extension, which will not be coming. The Kings’ star big man is incredibly talented, but his antics both on and off the court have left his value and length of commitment in complete limbo.
The team will likely let Cousins establish his worth next season then make their minds up on his future.
And what about Tyreke Evans, the 2009 NBA Rookie of the Year? Do the Kings open the coffers and pay the 23-year old when for the last three seasons, he’s spun his tires in epic fashion?
Like Cousins, Evans’ value is a complete unknown. The standard for players from his draft class was set high last season. DeMar DeRozan, Stephen Curry and James Harden all got paid between $10-$15 million per season. Evans’ value is hiding somewhere in those contracts, but it’s a substantial range.
One thing is for sure – Geoff Petrie and his penchant for overpaying his own players will not come into play this time around. Conventional wisdom tells you that anyone running this franchise will allow Evans to shop himself and establish a market for his talents. The Kings will retain the opportunity to match any offer and it is difficult to see a scenario where the team doesn’t get some value for Evans, even if it is in a sign-and-trade.
So what is Evans worth to the Kings or any other NBA team?
After an incredible rookie season where he averaged 20.1 points, 5.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds, Evans has seen his numbers hit a plateau. Per 36 minutes, Evans has posted scoring averages of 17.3, 17.3 and 17.4 over the last three seasons. His rebounding numbers have stayed relatively stagnant as well and his assist numbers have faded as he’s shifted away from the point guard position.
While most players know who they are by the fourth year of their NBA careers, Evans is still a rudderless ship. He has improved his biggest weakness this season, shooting 47.4 percent from the field and a solid 37.2 percent from 3-point range. But he is still lost in the Kings frenetic offense.
Evans has also improved as a defender, both in the pick-and-roll and in isolation. He has the potential to be an elite NBA defender in the mold of Andre Iguodala. But what he can be and who is are two completely different issues.
You could say that Evans needs a change of scenery to reach his potential, but that is coming for this franchise. Be it in Sacramento or in Seattle, this franchise will look much different by the time free agency rolls around.
You could also say that Evans needs every voice around him to stop telling him who and what he should be. At 23 years old, it is time for Evans to stand on his own two feet and carve out his own NBA niche. It is extremely tough to develop an identity when you can’t even hear yourself think.
Almost four seasons in and no one really knows the identity of this kid, including himself. He can be an elite two-way player, but he needs to enforce his will on his opponents to become that player. He can also disappear into obscurity, which honestly, he may prefer at this point.
On a team of misfit toys, Evans is struggling to get 31 minutes per game. His value is unknown. His full potential is unknown. He can blame coaching or a lack of institutional control over the Kings’ franchise, but at some point Evans has to take ownership over his career path. He needs to dictate who and what he is as a basketball player. Until he does that, Evans will continue to spin his tires, be it in Sacramento or somewhere else.