On your “guys who have to step up next season” list, Tyreke Evans should be near the top.
He was the rookie of the year three years ago, averaging 20.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game — only a handful of guys have ever done 20-5-5 as a rookie. But the next two seasons he has both battled injuries and he never developed a jumper, which allowed to teams to sit back and cut off his driving lanes. His game has never matured.
Next summer he will be a restricted free agent (there is little chance the Kings offer him an extension before the Halloween deadline). Basically, how he plays this season determines how he gets paid — and where he plays — next season.
And he knows it. He was up front with Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports about it.
“I’ve been receiving a lot of criticism about not being healthy and not playing like I did my rookie year,” Evans said. “I just want to come back this year and show people I’m still here and that I haven’t lost a step.”
Evans said he was working hard this summer, and Kings GM Geoff Petrie backed him up. Of course, find a player saying he’s worked hard this summer is about as hard as finding overpriced coffee. There’s one on every corner, it seems.
The question isn’t so much if Evans has lost a step and more has his game matured and has he found a jump shot. If so, he’s looking at a big payday next summer. If not, well, things will really be up in the air for the 2013-14 season.