The city of Sacramento is known to Southern Californians such as myself for a couple unflattering things: housing the (inherently) incompetent Governator, and the Sacramento Kings losing to the L.A. Lakers repeatedly during their 1999-2002 Playoff runs.
Then a friend of mine from Sac-Town asked me to write something about the Kings. The common consensus about Sacramento is that they're still a young, developing team, and probably won't even smell the playoffs for another two years or more. I was going to write a piece about how much Sacramento actually sucks, and how Evans is an overrated, over-hyped rookie with inflated numbers.
Instead, I'm here to tell you that the Kings could taste the playoffs as soon as next year.
While doing some research for the article, I focused primarily on the development of Omri Casspi, Carl Landry's development in Houston, and watching videos and game tape of a particular No. 13.
When I brought up the first video, what I saw was a bona fide NBA superstar.
Still raw, but a true NBA superstar in the making.
He sees angles and cuts that maybe five players in the league (Kobe, Wade, Nash, Rose, Rondo, and formerly Allen Iverson) can see; and the scary part is, he can execute on them.
At 6'6 and 220 pounds, his quickness makes him an absolute specimen.
He has a cat-like first step, and an even scarier step-back pull-up jumper.
His dribble drive climaxes with a volcanically intense pull to the basket and, of course, he can finish.
The man I'm speaking of, of course, is Tyreke Evans, the 2009-2010 NBA Rookie of the Year. The comparisons to Jordan, James, and Robertson started with his 20-5-5 rookie season. But that's about where it ends, as far as this writer. Evans is, in part, the second coming of a much less touted, perhaps even hated, athlete.
Tyreke Evans is like a 6'6" version of Allen Iverson. He has other facets to his game, surely (as even A.I. did in the later years of his Philly tenure), but he is a pure scorer, someone who can will his way to the basket over and over.
Evans was cut from Team U.S.A., along with Javale McGee, O.J. Mayo, and Sho'Nuff Wallace, which is good news, due in part to the possibility that Evans plays with a chip on his shoulder. Nothing like getting snubbed from the All-NBA Team to get you fired up for the next season; you know, to prove all the haters wrong. (Then again, there's also nothing like stabbing an entire city in the back in a one-hour ESPN special. That'll get you more haters to prove wrong, I'm sure.)
What does this mean for the Kings' playoff chances? Well, the Kings drafted Demarcus Cousins, whose playing-ceiling is something like Dwight Howard, and whose head-case potential makes Ron Artest look like Dwight Howard.
Cousins will probably start off the bat; if you've been watching the Summer League, he plays competently when he doesn't catch the ball on the perimeter and impersonate a shooting guard. Add Carl Landry, and you have a team that Dwyane Wade wished he had two years ago.
Maybe I'm being a little harsh about Cousins' character issues (trust me, 80% of human beings his age have the same "character issues"), but I'm hoping, for the sake of a city like Sacramento, that Cousins can deliver the goods.
If not, it's going to take a monster year from Evans for the Kings to sniff the playoffs. The crazy part? This monster year is not completely out of play; Evans remains the biggest "X-factor", with Cousins a close second.
Remember, Evans is still sushi-raw at this point in his career. His defense is a tad spotty when it comes to closing off the lane and playing in front of the ball. He could work on his outside jumper a bit more, especially if the Kings plan on dumping it into Cousins as a bread-and-butter offensive strategy.
The Kings making the playoffs would take a significant injury from one of the teams that made the Playoffs last year (I'm not discounting the fact that the West is a powerhouse conference). You never know what can happen over the course of the NBA season, but I know for sure that at least two teams (Portland and Utah) have a chance of missing the Playoffs next year, plus a couple more if key players are injured for an extensive period of time (San Antonio and Phoenix).
If Evans develops his play significantly (that means raising his game to near Dwyane Wade-esque heights), and with Landry and Cousins both putting up more than 12 points a game and crashing the boards, the Kings might find themselves in a 7 or 8 seed come playoff time.