Kings executives will entertain trade offers for Tyreke Evans this summer, and they should.
Evans remains a major asset. His team remains in a major funk. When a franchise finishes near the conference cellar for six consecutive seasons, the general manager needs to make significant personnel changes, or the franchise needs to change its general manager.
But that's an organizational decision.
Evans, who has a year remaining on his contract, has his own decision to make. He has to figure out what he wants and how badly he wants it. He has to determine what kind of player he wants to be and proceed accordingly, essentially controlling what he can control.
Is he satisfied with his Rookie of the Year trophy? Is it enough to be pain-free for the first time in two years? Is he content being a starter? And, most importantly, will he ever emotionally embrace the shift from point guard to small forward a total mind, body and soul experience and become a more engaged, consistent performer?
There is no quick answer hiding behind the locker room doors. Evans is both perplexing and a piece of the Kings' puzzle. He has a unique combination of skills, an agreeable, accommodating personality and the 6-foot-6, 220-pound physique of a basketball god.
But the primary question asked when Evans was drafted fourth overall in 2009 remains unanswered: Where is he most effective?
"I don't think it's any big secret," Princeton legend and longtime Kings consultant Pete Carril said the other night. "Tyreke's got to learn to play without the ball. It's all there. I see some games, and he looks very good. Other games he just has to work harder. I'd love to see him develop a mid-range game."
Ah, yes, runners and floaters and a jump shot. He's gotta get one. Reggie Evans, Tyreke's older brother, plans an offseason program that begins and ends with a shooting coach and includes a skills coach, a chef, a nutritionist and possibly a sprint coach.
The Evans brothers, by the way, are anything but coddlers. They critique Tyreke more harshly than angry tweeters after one-sided Kings losses. And while they aren't thrilled about the move to small forward, they aren't fighting it, either. At least not yet.
"If you ask me about that 20 games into next season, and they're losing, then I'm not OK with it because it's not putting the team in a better position to win," Reggie Evans said after a meeting Friday with Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie and Tyreke's agent, Arn Tellem. "If they're winning, I don't care if Tyreke only scores 10 points. Next year is an important year for us. But that has yet to be determined."
Excluding the fact that Evans was miscast as the Kings' primary ballhandler during his first two seasons and that's on former coach Paul Westphal almost everything about him has yet to be determined. His confidence wavers worse than his jumper. He is uncomfortable in the halfcourt offense and confused about when to cut and when to move. Too often, he admits, he just stands around.
Those weaknesses can be fixed during film sessions and by spending endless hours in a gym. More troubling is Evans' lack of production in two other critical areas: defense and rebounding. He has averaged only 2.5 rebounds during his last six games, including none in Friday's loss to Oklahoma City. He seldom gets his large, quick hands on loose balls anymore and seems emotionally disengaged. (In fairness, the Kings' defensive commitment in general is nonexistent. The last three opponents shot 53, 58 and 52 percent, respectively.)
"I just need to keep watching film and trying to get better," Evans said late Friday. "It gets frustrating. But at least my foot is OK and I'm healthy this year."
This offseason will be busy. Petrie will be more receptive to phone calls, will be pressured to make moves. But as one NBA scout told me the other day, Evans' position is ill-defined, but he is a talent, a player. The Kings don't have enough of those. Tread (and trade) cautiously.