March 26, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Tyreke Evans (13) passes the ball in the third quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE
On Sunday, Ailene Voisin had a column on the future of Tyreke Evans, touching on his dissatisfaction with the role change he experienced this season and the team's discontent with his lack of development. It's hard not to find some fault in the malaise on both ends: the Kings gave Evans a crummy coach and little in the way of player development help in the first two critical years of his career, and Evans was never able to fully do one of the two things he has needed to do from Day 1 (develop better court vision and decision-making or a reliable jump shot). To be a great point guard in the NBA, he needs to pass better. To be a great wing in the NBA, he needs to shoot better. He hasn't been able to put together either attribute. The Kings haven't been able to help him develop either attribute. It's on both of them.
What's tough to swallow is that there's a growing consensus that Tyreke hasn't put his best effort into playing small forward. (Pete Carril, Tyreke's brother and Tyreke himself all hint that he still doesn't grasp the nuances of playing off the ball. It's been an entire season, albeit a lockout-shortened one with few practices.)
If Tyreke buys in, he could be a starter at any position. His physical presence is All-World, he does things with the ball and his feet that should be illegal in developed countries and he's one of those players who plays bigger than he is. We pictured him as a dominant point guard, but he could also be a really, really good small forward if he went all out. I know the Bobcats are the Bobcats, but he was insanely tough going to the rim time after time after time on Sunday. Most small forwards can't ride a train like that. Tyreke can.
That's why I desperately fear a Tyreke Evans trade: I can see the realization of the dream, because we have seen it in fits. We've seen those monster games in which he is unstoppable. Heck, entire stretches of his rookie season featured that version of Tyreke. It's real and tangible. It's just been ... absent for a while. We need that pretty close to full-time, or else we'll be disappointed. It's hard to appreciate a solid player for whom you expected great things. We'd be thrilled if Jimmer Fredette or even Isaiah Thomas peaked at Tyreke's current level. But from Evans, we expect more.
Perhaps moving him for a player who is realized is the right play; perhaps it's not. I tend to think a lot of that depends on what the Kings actually do in the draft and free agency. What kills me about the 2011 draft and trade is that the Kings had apparently decided that Tyreke would be a small forward before swapping Beno Udrih for John Salmons and a move down in the draft. Salmons bounced back in a bench role in the second half of the season, but his contract remains disastrous. (It's just not quite Kenny Thomasian. More Francisco Garcian, which is funny because ... never mind. You know what I'm going to write.)
Meanwhile, we wonder if Tyreke will eventually be moved back to two-guard, with Marcus Thornton coming off of the bench and a new small forward in the starting five. The team's defense has been awful all season, getting worse as we roll along. Something in the line-up needs to change.
My personal philosophy on an Evans trade remains the same as it was at the deadline: nothing less than a younger-than-29 All-Star, please. I'd accept a top-8 pick in the draft, too, since everyone who matters decided to declare. (Would the Jazz give up the Warriors' No. 8 for Evans? Would you be cool with that?)