With so much time and energy spent on hiring a new head coach and general manager along with preparation for the 2013 NBA Draft, the Sacramento Kings have another decision ahead of them.
What do you do with former rookie of the year and franchise cornerstone Tyreke Evans?
At 23-years-old, Evans will likely be a hot commodity when the free agency period begins on July 1. That leaves Vivek Ranadivé and newly hired GM Pete D’Alessandro very little time to make a decision on a player that will eat up a substantial portion of the Kings’ cap room for the next four or five years.
Word from the Evans’ camp is that there are plenty of suitors lining up with tents and sleeping bags awaiting his pending free agency. Each with a fresh pen and a hope that they can be the team to take his enormous talent to the next level.
After an incredible rookie season, Evans, like the Kings franchise itself, has been stuck in neutral. The team has added talent almost every season, but it hasn’t translated into wins. Evans is one of the few players on the roster with the size, strength and skill-set to be an elite NBA player. Though he has yet to turn his tremendous potential into winning production, that doesn’t mean the Kings should walk away from him now.
Lost in the losses and franchise’s instability the last four years is the fact that Evans has quietly found a place at the off-guard position. While he prefers the ball in his hands, Evans is learning to play without it. His usage rate has slipped for a fourth-straight season, but he is becoming a more well-rounded player.
Evans’ 18.1 player efficiency rating (PER) this season was the highest it’s been since his rookie year and his 55.8 true-shooting percentange was the highest of his career. Evans is never going to be an elite 3-point shooter, but he nearly shot 34 percent from long range this season, a vast improvement from the 20.2 percent he shot the previous year.
On the defensive end, Evans is the best option the Kings have. He is incredibly strong and has the quickness of a much smaller player with length to boot. He has always had the makeup to be a high-level defender, but this was the season he actually took a big step. Sacramento was the worst defensive team in the league, but that isn’t an indictment on Evans. He has the potential to become one of the league’s best two-way players.
He hasn’t shown the fastest growth trajectory, but Evans has consistently improved. He hasn’t been able to repeat his 20-5-5 rookie season, but for a team in need of star power, Evans still has a shot to become just that.
The question now is how much are Ranadivé and D’Alessandro willing to spend to keep Evans on board? Evans is a restricted free agent, meaning that the Kings can match any offer he pulls in on the open market. But with the talent this kid possesses and an overwhelming belief around the league that Evans has been grossly misused in Sacramento, his value is one of the biggest question-marks coming into this year’s free agency.
So let’s hear it. What would you pay a 23-year-old former rookie of the year with tremendous upside on both ends of the floor?