The Tyreke Evans conundrum

The Sacramento Kings open training camp next week with plenty of questions that need answering.

Will Aaron Brooks or Isaiah Thomas start at the point?  Will John Salmons or newcomer James Johnson emerge as the answer at small forward?  Will Thomas Robinson be ready to play major minutes or is Chuck Hayes the Kings’ third big off the bench?

These are major questions, but they pale in comparison to the Tyreke Evans dilemma.

Who is Tyreke Evans?  Is he the 20-5-5 player that tantalized us with his aggressive, all-around play as a rookie?  Or is he a square peg in a round hole playing out his final season as a King?

He might be somewhere in between, but these are probably the most important questions: where will Evans play when the season tips off and what will the trickle down effect be on his Kings’ teammates?

We all have opinions on this subject, but until Keith Smart pencils in the starting line-up on Halloween in Chicago, we are only guessing.

The Kings appear loaded at the point with the addition of Brooks.  Geoff Petrie fortified the wing position with the addition of Johnson.  So where does that leave Evans?

If I were to place a bet, I would say that Evans starts in the backcourt alongside Thomas when the season begins against the Bulls.  If I am correct, then last season’s leading scorer, Marcus Thornton, moves to bench in a Jason Terry-esque, super-six role.

Thornton is a high-octane scorer, but Evans is his superior in most other categories, including defending, passing and rebounding.  If there is only room for one in the starting line-up, my money is on Evans and this isn’t an indictment on Thornton.

While Thornton can improve on aspects of his game, his best attributes are on the offensive end as a scorer.  It’s what he does well and while the conversation won’t be an easy one for coach Smart, bringing Thornton off the bench as a lights-out scorer will probably help him stay fresher during a long 82-game schedule.

Evans has struggled without the ball in his hand.  He has struggled with his jumper and he has even been known to fall asleep at the wheel on the defensive end.  That doesn’t excuse the fact that he is an incredible talent looking to prove himself in a contract year.

When you move Evans to the three, you lose the tremendous size and strength advantage that he has over almost any guard in the NBA.  And when you move him to the small forward, you are also asking for a season of discontent.

How will this experiment work out? Who knows, but the Kings need to make decisions that are best for the team as a whole, regardless of individual player feelings.  More than anything else, the 2012-13 Kings need to improve in the win column.  They need to be in the conversation for a playoff spot if they have any hope of keeping their fanbase engaged.

A successful season by Evans matched with the expected growth of Cousins should translate to more wins.  If it doesn’t, then the questions about Evans will only get louder when he asks for big money in free agency.


James Ham

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