Three years ago, Tyreke Evans had an incredible rookie season. Becoming immediately the main cog on a not-so-talented Sacramento Kings team, Evans put up a 20-5-5 season equalled only by the likes of Oscar, MJ and LeBron. Evans dominated the basketball and he put up huge numbers on any given night, and provided some of the most spectacular dribble-drives to the rim that made him such a deadly threat as a rookie.
However, the Kings only won eight more games that year, and the year after that (even with the talented rookie DeMarcus Cousins) Sacramento actually lost an additional game. Despite Evans's production, it didn't seem like the team improved that much under his bill, and the trend has continued into this season, where the Kings are only likely to finish a few percentage points in the standings ahead of their 2011 season, winning about a third of their games.
Tyreke Evans' agent, Arn Tellem, made a rare appearance tonight to express his concerns about the former Rookie of the Year's role. He met with Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie, Evans' brother, Reggie, and another Tellem rep as well. Source close to Evans says he's frustrated with how marginalized he's become. Evans' reps are encouraging him to be more vocal about his perspective going forward. No extension discussions (he's eligible this summer), FWIW.
Why can't this team win with someone as talented as Evans as one of their main cogs? Well, one of the big issues is that Evans always seems to struggle to run the offense. Evans had to play a lot of point guard in the league, and when he put that basketball in his hands it felt like he would never let it go. Evans takes a lot of shots, and probably way too many for a guard to actually take. It detracts from the overall team offense, detracts from the ability of the Kings to win basketball games.
This team is clearly built in the long-run to run around the talented and emerging Cousins as its main star. Add in Isaiah Thomas taking over primary point guard responsibilities and Marcus Thornton settling into his role at the two, and Evans has suffered, floating in and out of the starting lineup. His three point percentage (21.3%) and mid-range game (28% on 16 to 23 footers) are both at career lows. It seems like Evans is either stagnating or atrophying in crucial parts of his game.
Evans is too talented to not start, but it's hard to imagine him accepting the third wheel role. The Kings have placed him in at small forward, and although he's utilized his slashing talents to their natural advantage, he has not been able to make opponents pay with his erratic jumper. All teams have to do is pack the paint and force Evans to spot up. That is not a vogue look for your starting swingman, and it's hard to imagine Evans can really stay at that spot.
Evans tends to work well off the ball, but he probably wants that ball more in his hands because of his playmaking ability. Yet at his current size and strength he's better off not handling the basketball too much and instead working off his teammates. So you can see the dilemma: Evans is too talented not to have a lot of plays run through him, yet the offense seems to function better when he's not one of the main fulcrums.
Thomas seems to be the point guard for the Kings going forward, and while he doesn't have quite the finishing ability of his guard counterpart, he has proven to be far more efficient from the outside than Evans and utilized every bit of his 5-9 185 pound frame to produce as an NBA starter. Thornton has pushed Evans away from being the shooting guard, as he can get hot in a hurry and carry the Kings as their crunch-time scorer. And Cousins is now likely to be the focus of the team and demand a lot more possessions, which again diminishes the role of Evans.
If Sacramento can add a small forward from the draft, Evans would probably be better for the Kings as a sixth man player who can create offense and keep the team floating. Unfortunately, his talent level is too high for him to accept that type of role. He can probably earn a lot more on the open market for a team in need of good players. It's a dilemma that Geoff Petrie will have to deal with this offseason.
Whether Sacramento should part with him is up for debate. But it seems like Evans just doesn't quite fit in the overall picture of the Kings, and might be better off starting anew elsewhere.