Apr 15, 2013; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Tyreke Evans (13) handles the ball against Oklahoma City Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha (2) during the first half at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Could Tyreke Evans Fall Victim To New Sacramento Kings Regime?

Feb 27, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; Sacramento Kings point guard Tyreke Evans (13) scores a layup against the Orlando Magic during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a fear growing inside me — a fear that Tyreke Evans will be a casualty of the Sacramento Kings new regime.

Nothing is set in stone, of course, but reading between the lines puts Evans spot on the Kings in possible doubt.

First, there’s the money. We’ve seen players in Evans’ draft class already get extended — DeMar Derozan got $9.5 million per season, while Steph Curry earned an $11 million per season deal. Evans, a restricted free agent, will command a salary that likely hits $10 million. The next general manager — be it Larry Bird, Chris Wallace or otherwise — will have a decent amount of cap room to work with. The Kings are committed to about $42 million for next season, about $16 million short of the projected salary cap. Factoring in $10 million for Evans and $2.3 mill for the No. 7 pick leaves about $4 million to play with. Does the new GM agree to use the majority of his dollars to re-sign a player from the failed past? Wouldn’t he much rather mold the roster with players of his own choosing?

Second, there’s the clear abundance of guards in the Kings system. While none hold the capabilities of Evans, Isaiah Thomas, Jimmer Fredette and Marcus Thornton are already under contract. Toney Douglas is a solid, cheap fallback option should someone get moved. The draft figures to provide more guard options — Trey Burke, C.J. McCollum, Michael Carter-Williams — and the lone free agent the Kings have been linked to, Monta Ellis, happens to play guard. You don’t want to say Evans could be replaced, but there are a lot of choices should he be cut loose.

These factors combined with Evans’ volatile career to this point make his return less than automatic. Hell, at this time last year I was ready to pull the plug, convinced Evans would never settle into an off-the-ball role. At that point, a trade seemed the best route, as the Kings could avoid overpaying Evans while picking up a valuable asset in return.

But something clicked this past season, and Evans is again in my good graces. He gave up some ball-handling duties, improved his jumper and continued to play stellar defense. Now he looks like the most valuable player on the roster not named DeMarcus Cousins. And at age 23, he’s just scratching the surface of what kind of player he can be.

The speculation will only continue throughout the summer. The team clearly hasn’t severed ties with Evans — despite his impending free agency, he appeared at the Long Live The Kings rally and was also mentioned by name in Michael Malone’s introductory press conference. But a new head honcho, looking to put his stamp on the roster, may go another direction.

I’m willing to trust the Kings management, but for now, I’m firmly on Team Tyreke.

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