Let's see...where to start?
I think that I want to start by applauding everyone that has commented over the past few days over the incendiary topic that is Tyreke Evans. While there has certainly been some extremism on both sides of the aisle, the overall conversation has been dynamic and informative. And the tone has had far more respect than I would have guessed (with a few notable exceptions). The ban hammer and timeout tapper have been on high alert, but there have been very few occasions to unsheathe them. Well done!
There are great rationalizations on either side of this debate. On the one side is that this team is not as good without Evans as they are with Evans. And if the sum of this summer's roster moves wind up being Evans for Vasquez, I would agree.
Vasquez will certainly provide a pass-first mindset that we have not seen from the point guard position since perhaps Jason Williams, and this will make everyone on the team better on the offensive end. However, we should also keep the very real perspective that Vasquez was probably not a top 15 point guard by the end of last season. He's a suspect shooter, and has not shown much passion for defense. Just like Tyreke Evans, he needs to address the deficiencies in his game to get to the next level. And make no mistake: Evans is at a much higher level right now as a player than Greivis Vasquez.
On the other side of this debate is that Evans is not worth the 4 year, $44m investment, or at the very least that there are better ways to spend that money. As someone that would have paid Evans that amount (and $1m a year more before I cried "Uncle"), I'm not sure that I agree...yet.
I would tend to agree that a team with Tyreke Evans as their centerpiece is not a serious playoff contender. However, an $11m a year player is not centerpiece pricing. $11m a year would have made Evans the 4th highest paid player on Miami last year, and the 3rd highest paid player on the Spurs. If we skip down to the 4th seeds in the playoffs, Evans would have been the 5th highest paid player on the Nets and the 3rd highest paid player on the Clippers (Griffin's new contract not kicking in until 2013-14). Tied for 3rd on Boston, 4th on the Lakers (both 7th seeds), but tied for 1st on 8th seed Milwaukee and 1st on Houston (with Harden's new deal kicking in this year).
The Kings could have matched and retained Evans at 4/$44m without really mortaging the franchise or committing to him that he was "the man" or the face of the franchise. The Kings could have elected to pay Evans and pay Cousins at or near the max next year and still be under the cap, albeit not enough to sign an upper tier player. But in 2015-16, the team would have an abundance of cap room, with Cousins/Evans and Thompson being the only current contracts of any note (McLemore would be earning a couple of million at this point).
Given these numbers, I'm not sure that the timing matters. I mean, you don't want to throw a $44m investment out there if it's not going to improve your team, so if the mindset of the franchise is that you don't pay out for your 2nd or 3rd best player until you have paid out for your best player, I can at least see a bit of the logic. But as versatile as Evans is, it sure seems that you could retain him and retrofit him as you bring in other talent.
It really comes down to value, in my opinion. Simply, the Kings front office did not value Tyreke Evans as a 4/$44m player. For those that agree with the front office, it's "Welcome our new cap guru and analytic overlords!" For those that disagree, it's "I miss Geoff Petrie!", or at the very least, some insight into what the front office is thinking here.
One thing that is really not debatable is the value to contract of Vasquez. He is a starting caliber point guard (again, though, not currently a top 15), at a very low $2.2m. I like Jeff Teague a lot, but Vasquez is not all that far away from Teague, so it will be interesting to see what kind of contract Teague draws this summer. Because whatever it is, that could potentially be the market for Vasquez next year if/when he becomes a restricted free agent. Teague's contract will definitely provide a negotiating point for Vasquez as this process moves forward, if the Kings indeed have an interest in keeping him around (FWIW, I put little stock in the scuttlebutt that the Kings wanted Calderon over Vasquez, and even if that is true, this does not automatically mean that they dislike Greivis, especially since they are indeed acquiring him as of right now). As much as I would have paid Evans 4/$44m, Vasquez's contract is the better value right now, though perhaps for only one year.
And while I agree that the sign & trade is better than outright losing Evans, the fact is that the Kings had the opportunity and authority not to lose him. The fact that they are electing to do so simply means that they think that Evans is (a) overvalued at this contract offer, and (b) not worth paying over value for.
The overvaluation component is important here. At some point every team has to overpay for talent in order to be competitive. However, given the cap constraints, your hope is to relegate those overpayments to your top couple of players. Is Evans one of those guys? The Kings seem to be saying no. The Kings seem to be saying that they are going to ultimately look elsewhere for their top-end talent (I have no clue as to where right now and your guess is probably better than mine), and they have either chosen flexibility over Evans, or something else is going to happen that we are not privy to yet. It is, after all, only July 5.
A side note to all of this is the Robin Lopez component. I think that I am once again valuing Lopez higher than the front office. Lopez is due to make $5.1m and $5.3m over the next two years actually $5.9m and $6.1m after factoring in the trade kicker - hat tip CaliforniaJag). That's not a bad price for a defensive-minded center. Lopez would provide more defensive interior presence than anyone since Samuel Dalembert. He is not a plus-rebounder, but that happens sometimes with guys that are busy altering shots (his rebounding rate is on a par with Marc Gasol, for example). I can't see why the Kings wouldn't keep him, unless there is something else brewing that we don't know about. I'm OK with receiving 2nd round picks for Lopez instead of Jeff Withey (who is reportedly headed to the Pelicans in this deal), as I think that those picks may be ultimately used to obtain good players from other teams that are looking to shed contract, or as pieces to other future trades. Again, so much is contingent on the next deal...if that deal is indeed forthcoming.
Overall, I'm not pleased with where the Kings roster is today as opposed to where it was right after the draft. But that could change in the blink of an eye, or within minutes of me posting this, or by July 12 and the first day of Vegas Summer League, or by training camp, or by the trade deadline, or by next year, or perhaps the year after that. My hope is that there are still plenty of chapters to be written about the Sacramento Kings offseason of 2013.
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