The NBA can often be a confusing and shifting environment – with unexpected developments that lead to earth-shattering changes – for better or worse. There are times when it reminds me of the well-known board game “Clue.”
Most everyone probably has spent at least a few hours with friends or family trying to get to the bottom of the murder of the host, Mr. John Boddy. In some ways, “Clue” unknowingly helped us learn how to create substantive accusations through deductive reasoning and knowledgeable inferences. By the end of the game, you always had an answer for three questions: Which character killed our good friend Mr. Boddy, what room the crime was committed in, and what weapon was used to do it?
Let’s take a moment or three to act as if we have clues - and take these three elements: characters, rooms, and weapons - to make semi-accurate judgments regarding Tyreke Evans’ fate next summer.
What I have surmised, and let me go on to explain below, is that the crime in this case will not be murder, but grand theft, with the robbery of restricted-free-agent-to-be Tyreke Evans, to the Atlanta Hawks, with a 5yr/$75M contract.
There are many factors that come into play in this accusation, so let’s begin to piece them together.
You cannot win the game without knowing all three factors, so let’s start with the first: the characters.
As we all know, Tyreke Evans is the conflicted character, so let’s start with him. Tyreke sees light at the end of the tunnel in the form of the end of his rookie contract next summer. With the finalization of his fourth season comes the opportunity to become a restricted free agent. The former Rookie of the Year will have the opportunity this season to regain the luster surrounding his game that diminished during the two years following his rookie campaign. If Evans can get back to his rookie form, improve in the main statistical categories, and help the Kings win some games, he may be one of the most attractive free agents next season – likely worthy of a max deal – or something close like the deal Eric Gordon garnered this past summer with (4yr/$58M).
But one of his comrades, Isaiah Thomas, will also play a large role in what happens next summer. Isaiah will look to build upon his impressive rookie year while making a meager $762k salary. At the end of this year, there is no doubt that he will have his team option exercised, and will play the 2013-2014 campaign at $884k. Upon the completion of that season, Isaiah will become an unrestricted free agent, and will have the opportunity to test the market with the hopes of following the precedent of two former second rounders, Landry Fields and Mario Chalmers. Fields, a restricted free agent this past summer, ended up having the Knicks decline to match the 3yr/$20M contract that the Raptors offered. Chalmers also got a nice payday despite being drafted outside the first round, re-upping with Miami in the summer of 2011 for 2yr/$8M. If Isaiah plays well and follows their pattern, which I believe he will, he could be looking at least $4-5M going into the 2014-2015 campaign.
These players’ performance this season leaves things to mystery, but there is no mystery surrounding their teammate Demarcus Cousins. When Boogie’s contract is up during Summer ’14, he will deservedly receive a max deal, somewhere above $15M, judging by the fact that he will make more than Roy Hibbert did with his 4yr/$58M deal.
This takes us to the next important piece of the puzzle: the room – which signifies the franchise that is willing to house Tyreke.
If Tyreke chooses to pass on the qualifying offer he receives from the Kings next summer, and signs with another team like the Hawks on a max deal, the Kings will obviously have the right of first refusal. The question though, is would it be in management’s best interest to match.
They might be ok with the increased salary from Evans’ max deal in 2013-2014, but when 2014-2015 hits, they’ll be looking at an equation that looks something like this:
Now, let’s add in Cousins and Isaiah Thomas. Based on the inferences above, I would say the equation would look something like this:
Tyreke ($15M) + Cousins ($15M) + IT22 ($5M) + MT23/Hayes/JT/Outlaw/TRob ($27.4M) = $62.4M – We now have incorporated eight players, but still have more guaranteed roster spots that need to be filled.
You start to see the dilemma for a small market Kings team that is cash-strapped and trying to keep their salaries as low as possible. They would be pushing the luxury tax threshold and that would be without Jimmer, JJ, or Brooks. It doesn’t seem very plausible without some kind of reshuffling.
Now let’s move the piece into another room and think about some recent events which may lead us to believe that this is the “room” he may be destined for: Atlanta.
This weekend, Tyreke got caught up in a Twitter conflict. After he tweeted, “I got to get a house in ATL,” he received tweets from concerned Kings fans. He quickly tried to maneuver his way out of the fray with another tweet shortly thereafter, saying “Just cuz I want a house in the A doesn’t mean I want to play for them y’all say wat ever on here that’s why I don’t be on here.”
Hmm, let’s think about this for a second, if there is a team that is primed to pose a real threat to throw max dollars at ‘Reke, the Hawks would be one of the first in a police line-up of prime suspects.
Atlanta GM Danny Ferry worked magic this summer when he unloaded $89.3M in the Joe Johnson trade, leaving Josh Smith more content and open to the possibility of a long-term extension when he becomes unrestricted next offseason. They’ll take a shot a Dwight Howard and Chris Paul next summer, but if they strike out on both of them, the list would start shrinking and Tyreke would quickly ascend as one of the top free agents. Monta Ellis and Andre Iguodala are the only two SG’s who are probably better, and Iggy has already said he would like to stay in Denver and Monta is liable to go anywhere. In the end, Atlanta will want to spend their money to put a good product on the floor, and a mixture of Evans/Smith/Horford/Teague would have a nice ring to it.
It would be the perfect storm – rampant reports that he wants out, he questions his role with the team, and trade speculation has swirled – why would he not choose to leave for a max contract? It’s unfathomable to think that he wouldn’t sign their offer sheet and leave it up to the Kings to make the tough-decision.
This finally brings us to the weapon – the instrument used by suspect Danny Ferry, as well as Tyreke’s agent Arn Tellem – to make the ultimate heist. I assume the weapon will turn up along the lines of a deal worth $75M over five years.
It wouldn’t be anything extraordinary for a player of Tyreke’s caliber in this day and age, but it would be enough to prevent the Kings from matching on the max contract when they have other valuable loose ends to tie up the following year.
The Kings will have to prioritize holding on to IT22, and gunner Marcus Thornton, as well as Thomas Robinson eventually – and maybe even Jimmer, Aaron Brooks, and James Johnson. They’ll make sure Demarcus is in the fold for the foreseeable future.
And Tyreke will have entered as a Supernova - accomplishing the amazing 20-5-5 feat and Rookie of the Year honors, all while bringing notoriety to Sacramento – only to exit three short years later with a heavy heart and plump wallet. He’ll join a new troop with a brighter national spotlight, with no hindrances from coaches or management.
Fellow friends, if we rely on our wits, and take emotion out of the picture, we can figure out this mystery and spare ourselves the heartache of not knowing.
But in the end, I’m pulling the cards out of the envelope, and they say Tyreke…in Atlanta…with a whopping 5yr/$75M contract.