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Scott Howard-Cooper

Tyreke Evans averaged 19.2 points in five Summer League games.
Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Kings take big gamble with rookie guard Evans

By Scott Howard-Cooper, for
Posted Sep 24 2009 10:52AM

The new hope for the Kings at point guard is a rookie who has never played the position full time, who rates himself the third-best point guard -- tops -- in the 2009 Draft and who would otherwise be heading into his sophomore season at Memphis.

This is going to be good.

Tyreke Evans is only the biggest draft gamble in Geoff Petrie's tenure as Sacramento's personnel boss, that's all. Taking Jason Thompson over Anthony Randolph last year could go bad, but Thompson was the 12th pick, and he clearly has a future (even if Randolph is turning into something special ahead of schedule).

Choosing Evans, though, was a stretch with the fourth pick. The Kings needed an upgrade at point guard, what with Beno Udrih attempting to run the offense from the fetal position and the Kings pleading for a fleeing fan base to still believe after an embarrassing 2008-09 season.

If Evans turns into the dynamic, physical two-way player many teams think he can be, it could help turn an entire franchise. He can bring new energy and become the first Kings guard pushing the ball down opponents' throats since Jason Williams. He can be new hope for a roster that has to prove it's something other than the heartless group that rolled over last season. And, of course, he can rescue the position.

But if Evans turns into a reach and a wasted No. 4 pick, the Kings will find out how angry the mob at the gates can really get.

So it is that training camp opens Tuesday, with the Kings and Grizzlies (who have Hasheem Thabeet) as the only teams with Top 10 picks that have something to prove. (Not counting Ricky Rubio, of course.)

Blake Griffin to the Clippers at No. 1 was a no-brainer. Thabeet second was understandable for a roster that needed size, but rival executives are split between believing he can be a game-changer on defense and believing he is merely a future role player. For James Harden (No. 3 overall), Jonny Flynn (No. 6), Stephen Curry (No. 7), Jordan Hill (No. 8), DeMar DeRozan (No. 9) and Brandon Jennings (No. 10), there's little room for debate.

At least Evans knows what's coming. He is aware that his career begins in a few days under the particularly bright lights of being an NBA point guard who is inexperienced as a point guard. No position relies more on intuition, and he is coming off one season at Memphis as someone who had the ball a fair amount of the time. Flynn, Rubio and Jennings are all true distributors with a greater background of initiating an offense and delivering the right pass at the right time.

"There's a lot of people out there, they know that I'm good but they don't think I can play the point," Evans said. "They think I'm a pure two-guard. But I'm just a natural player. I go out on the court and I get the job done."

He said Flynn and Jennings were better true point guards coming out, but that, "I'm one of the top players in the draft." The plan is to "push myself to be a natural point guard." Because he isn't now.

On the other hand, Russell Westbrook wasn't experienced at the point coming out last season. The Thunder took him at No. 4 and he ended up making the All-Rookie team. He had a deeper body of work to evaluate (two years at UCLA, although he had a very limited role as a freshman), and was a better athlete and defender. But the Kings can rightly point skeptics toward Oklahoma City as evidence of how this can all turn out right.

Plus, it wasn't tough to find other teams equally impressed by Evans. One personnel boss said Evans' speed and 6-foot-6, 220-pound frame reminded him of Baron Davis at the same stage. Davis was clearly a point guard when he turned pro after one college season, so there's no comparison in that way. But that physical presence on a point guard is special. Said another executive in June: "I've always thought two guys in the draft have a chance to be real stars. He and Griffin are it."

Udrih wasted his chance with the Kings last season, buried by terrible play and a lack of emotional toughness when criticism came. Sacramento landed Sergio Rodriguez from Portland in a Draft day trade, but he's hardly a sure thing considering he never broke through with the Trail Blazers. So Evans has his opening.

The new hope in Sacramento now gets his chance.

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