Early on in his NBA career, it was hard to fathom a future for the Sacramento Kings without Tyreke Evans as the centerpiece. He was "20-5-5", the player who would finally bring us back into respectability. He was a jump shot away from making the All-Star team. He was a revolutionary point guard who would bully all others into submission on both ends of the court.
Of course, it didn't exactly pan out that way. Evans finished his rookie contract in Sacramento and then the Kings' new management opted to sign-and-trade him to New Orleans for Greivis Vasquez because they felt that the $11 million a year being offered to Evans was too much for what he brought to the court.
So now the Kings enter their first Evans-less season since the infamous 2008-09 year when they finished with the worst record in the NBA. How much will Evans be missed? In my opinion... not too much, especially if Ben McLemore proves to be a good NBA player.
Evans' greatest strength was getting to the basket. He was and is by far one of the best guards in getting to the rim. But everyone figured that out after his rookie season and so while they weren't able to shut him down completely, it definitely made Sacramento's offense with Evans on the court much less varied and easier to stop. Evans got much better with his set three point shot last year, but even so he shot just 33.8% from long range. With Evans gone, the Kings' offense will be spaced much better as his role will be replaced by Marcus Thornton (a better scorer than Evans) and Ben McLemore (a better shooter and more explosive player than Evans). While Evans often commanded the other team's best perimeter defender, Thornton will command the same.
Now defense is another issue. Evans was probably Sacramento's best perimeter defender next to John Salmons. However, being a good individual defender doesn't mean much in the large scale of things when the entire team finished 29th in defensive rating and 30th in opponent points per game. Team defense is much more valuable than individual defense, and Evans wasn't an elite enough defender that he could single-handedly carry a team's defense. Mike Malone was able to take a roster that played notoriously weak defenders Stephen Curry, Jarrett Jack and David Lee huge minutes and still be 14th in defensive rating. The addition of Luc Mbah a Moute also gives the Kings an individual perimeter defender who already is better than Evans on that end of the court.
In terms of passing, Evans was one of Sacramento's best passing guards, which wasn't saying much considering his assist rate has been dropping since his rookie year and was at just 19.0% last year. Now the Kings will have the ball in the hands of much better passing guards like Greivis Vasquez and Isaiah Thomas and should get better scoring opportunities because of it.
Evans will be missed by fans, as he should, but in terms of on the court production, I don't think the Kings as a whole will miss him too much. They'll make up for it in other areas, and should be a better team overall. The same goes for New Orleans, who added Evans. I really like the concept of using Evans as a sixth man, where his strengths become even stronger and his weaknesses don't show up as much. I don't think the Kings could have justified using Evans as a sixth man, but New Orleans can, and if Evans can embrace it, he could be phenomenal in that role.