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Whether or not Evans returns will be a big factor this offseason.
Tyreke Evans is now a restricted free agent, and how the Kings handle that will be one of the pressing issues facing the team.
Sacramento could offer him a qualifying offer worth $6.92 million. In that scenario, the team would then have the right to match any free-agent offer he signs.
My guess is, and it’s only a guess, the Kings will extend his qualifying offer and then see what sort of interest he receives on the free-agent market. If he receives a reasonable contract, they’ll match it. If some team blows him out of the water with a deal, they’ll let him walk.
I’ve been torn on the Evans situation all season. It’s true that he’s coming off the best season of his career, at least in terms of advanced statistics. However, it’s also true that this is the first year Tyreke’s extended his game beyond what he showed as a rookie four seasons ago.
Therefore, I’m somewhat reluctant to invest in a player who’s not constantly progressing but making his biggest strides when faced with the prospect of a new contract.
Another area that concerns me is Evans’ health, which isn’t to say he’s had a lot of serious injuries—quite the contrary. However, he’s missed a lot of games with nagging injuries.
He missed 10 games as a rookie, 25 games in 2010-11—largely due to bouts with plantar fasciitis—only three games in 2011-12 and 17 games this season, first from a strained knee and later from a strained quad.
Ultimately, the stance I’d take with Evans is the one I laid out above: Extend the qualifying offer and see how the market plays out.
Nagging injuries and slow progression aside, he’s still one of the team’s best players. He’s also only 23 years old despite already playing four seasons in the league. Retaining him is the right thing to do, but only if it comes for the right price.