How the Kings should build around Tyreke Evans.
by Sam Cadet
Tyreke Evans’s rookie campaign was the sole flash in Sacramento’s tired pan last season. It’s obvious that the kid deserves better and can develop in to a better leader with a more capable supporting cast. That means the Kings’ front office has to get their hands dirty this off-season if they want to put last year’s Rookie of the Year in a winning atmosphere. Fortunately they have about $20 million in cap space and a lottery pick to spare.
So how should they go about utilizing what’s available? Read on and find out.
Grabbing the fifth pick in the Draft isn’t the ideal lottery position for Sacramento since they’re in dire need of a stronger front line. Derrick Favors will likely get picked third by New Jersey as the Nets are desperate for a power forward among other necessities. DeMarcus Cousins might be out of the picture as well if Minnesota decides against going for a likely pick in Wesley Johnson.
Perhaps picking a (combo) forward may be Sacramento’s best bet since the likely candidates have fewer holes in their game: size notwithstanding. What’s more is Jason Thompson has made some strides and can become a better big man if he hones his post defense. Wesley Johnson, Al-Farouq Aminu, Patrick Patterson and Ed Davis are all in reach for the Kings and can become capable secondary scorers as Evans facilitates the rock.
Johnson is undoubtedly the most skilled scorer and perimeter defender of the bunch. Pairing him with Evans could lead to a potentially deadly duo in the years to come as he’s the most NBA ready selection of the lot. Unfortunately he’s too small to be a power forward and that doesn’t help their deficiencies in the paint. Additionally, it seems like everyone not named Wesley has questionable ball handing and basket facing ability.
Aminu is the best choice of that subset since he’s young, a good shot blocker, rebounder, a great finisher and an exceptional athlete for his frame. His jump shot isn’t a lost cause and his defensive game could use some tailoring for a faster NBA game. But he doesn’t need much help in developing physical strength which is a sore spot for many rookie power forwards. His size, strength and speed could be especially handy for Tyreke as he can become a solid pick and roll beneficiary. Additionally, Aminu isn’t a total long shot to moonlight as a 3 if he improves his lateral movement and gets that J ironed out.
Let’s talk about the $20 million Sacramento has at their disposal this summer. That may sound like a good chunk of change but they only have nine players signed in to the ‘10-11 season with a few free agents on their roster. Regrettably, going for a max player doesn’t seem plausible when they need to fill out the team with more players.
In the meantime the Kings need youth and all the help on D they can get. Thankfully there are plenty of mid-level free agents. Sacramento ought to pursue a combination of Travis Outlaw, Matt Barnes, and/or Ronnie Brewer (preferably involving Outlaw) so they can stiffen up their perimeter and midcourt presence. They won’t light the scoreboard up but they can compliment Evans at unique capacities. Tyreke’s court vision could serve as a benefactor to Outlaw’s streaky jump shot and extend Sacramento’s offense on the wing as a small forward that can play a 4 depending on matchups. Ronnie Brewer and Barnes are battling for second as they’re better on the ball defenders (particularly Brewer) that lack the offensive tools Outlaw possesses. More importantly, adding each player to the squad would provide some much needed depth to a roster featuring a lackluster bench: save for Omri Casspi on a few occasions.
And the Kings must realize that Tyreke would benefit from having veteran guards who could develop Evans in to a better leader. With that in mind Sactown could try to opt for Raja Bell as he won’t run their pockets dry. He’s a gamble since he missed the whole ‘09-10 season to injury. But he could benefit the team by adding some toughness and a long range presence they sorely lack as a probable sixth man. Bell would ideally be a dependable shooter on the wing as he’s proven in years past. Having that option would be great for Evans as he attracts double teams when he drives. More importantly, Raja has played on some successful teams: namely the Nash-era Suns as a starter and the ’01 Sixers at a much lesser role. He knows what it takes to go deep in the post-season and Tyreke needs that guidance as he matures on a team that sat at the bottom of the Western Conference last year.
Sacramento’s front office wouldn’t want their new star to become complacent with losing after a rough ‘09-10 campaign. They need a culture change and a player with Bell’s experience could help them convert in to winners down the line. If the Bell situation doesn’t work out then Carlos Arroyo or Earl Watson could also serve as affordable veteran backup point guards. The Kings don’t have a pure point guard on their second team so anything would be an improvement on that end.
It’s plausible to see the Kings develop in to a Playoff-contending squad with these changes in mind. It may not happen as soon as next season since the West is so stacked. But they’re not too far off from seeing a transformation reminiscent of the Oklahoma City Thunder if their needs are addressed. Also Tyreke is already on his way to becoming one of the League’s best combo guards. The Kings might as well work with what they have and surround him with a proficient supporting cast. They may not be in a place to afford another star who can fix much of their woes. But they have enough tools available to build a balanced team around their franchise player.