Why Tyreke Evans Is Poised for Monster Season in His Contract Year

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistSeptember 13, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 14:  Tyreke Evans #13 of the Sacramento Kings drives past Ronnie Brewer #11 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on February 14, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Kings 121-115. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

We know what Tyreke Evans is capable of doing. The question is whether he's still capable of doing it.

A quick look at his career numbers (all three years of them) shows the kind of downward trend you'd expect to see from a guy who just turned 35. Could the 22-year-old's best days already be behind him in some kind of Benjamin Button-like skill trajectory?

Don't count on it.

Evans' struggles—if you can call them that—have a lot more to do with injury and position changes than anything that might be construed as a systemic problem. He dealt with nagging plantar fasciitis in 2010 and more foot problems later in 2011.

Beyond the immediate impact, Evans hasn't been able to stay in the best possible shape, and his game has taken a bit of hit because of it.

He's also been moved around from the point to shooting guard and most recently to the small forward position, meaning he's spent a lot of time just making adjustments in his young career.

With some health and stability, he'll actually be able to focus on improving his game rather than adapting to injuries and new demands. And the opportunity to prove himself without distraction couldn't come at a better time.

Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears reports that Evans has some incentive to put in the extra effort this summer:

This season will be an important one for Evans. The Kings have yet to offer him a contract extension. If they don't extend him, he'll become a restricted free agent after the season.

Evans knows he faces an uncertain future, and has devoted himself this summer to improving his game. He says he's taken just one week off since the end of last season, and this is the first offseason he primarily has worked out in Sacramento. He's played in a couple of pro-am leagues and says he's completely healthy now.

His improvement will begin with better perimeter shooting and better shot selection. Just as fellow slasher Derrick Rose took his game to the next level by extending his range, Evans will look to become a more versatile scorer.

In addition to scoring in different places, he will need to learn to score in different ways.

At the moment, Evans gets a lot of his baskets taking his man off-the-dribble and attacking the basket. He's not as comfortable playing off the ball and scoring assisted baskets, meaning the Kings have traditionally faced a tension between moving the ball and getting Evans involved in the offense.

As he becomes a better shooter, that tension will recede.

The rest of Evans' game really isn't in question, at least not any more so than would be the case with other up-and-coming wings like James Harden or Eric Gordon.

In fact, Evans really excels at rebounding, defending and setting his teammates up. He's one of the league's more versatile young stars, and we'll see every facet of his game at its finest with a contract on the line and a few things to prove.

Whether that will be enough to make the Sacramento Kings significantly better is another matter. This team is young across the board, and it's still developing an identity on both ends of the floor.

Evans can't do anything about that.

But he can certainly make the case for himself and demonstrate why he's so essential to the Kings' rebuilding process. DeMarcus Cousins and Thomas Robinson could become one of the game's best interior duos in time, but Sacramento will still need a guy who can make things happen from the wing.

Evans is that guy, and GM Geoff Petrie will be the first one to notice.