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Evans is leading the Kings to respectability

It’s Christmas time, and we have a fair idea regarding what teams will be making the trip to the playoffs in April, and which teams will be once again making a trip to the Lottery. The best the likes of the Nets, T’Wolves, Warriors and the Knicks (well Jazz, as a result of one of Isiah’s disastrous trades that sent next year’s first round pick to Utah) can hope for is a shot at landing Kentucky prodigy John Wall in next year’s draft with the No. 1 pick. But the team that was expected to be awful this season is proving the doubters wrong, sitting at just under .500 and with a chance at making the playoffs. I never thought I would be saying this, but the Sacramento Kings are in the running for a playoff spot this season.

Kings: (13-15)

There’s one reason why so much attention has been drawn towards the Kings in the last few weeks: the play of rookie Tyreke Evans. The 6’6” guard from Memphis has been killing it in the NBA, averaging 20.4 ppg, 5.1 rebounds and 5 assists. If ‘Reke continues with this form, he will be only the 4th rookie to average 20, 5 and 5 – the others: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson and Lebron James. Not bad company then…

Evans’ size and build is the main reason why he has been so successful so far in the NBA. At 6’6” Tyreke can power his way past opposition point guards and get to the rim easily, as shown by ‘Reke dropping 28 points on Cleveland and 24 on the Bucks in the last week, as well as a season-high 32 points on Deron Williams and the Jazz in November. Evans was instrumental in helping the Kings overcome a 35-point deficit in the second half against the Bulls last week.

What makes the Kings’ form even more impressive is that they are missing their leading scorer Kevin Martin and starter Francisco Garcia through injury and are still near .500 in an ultra-competitive Western Conference. And with a young core of rookie Evans, second year forward Jason Thompson and young center Stephen Hawes, the Kings have a few nice pieces to build on for the future. If K-Mart can fit into the new system when he returns from injury and continue to put up points, then the Kings are only a couple of players away from competing in the West once again.

How could can the Kings be this season? With a young core of rookie Evans, second year forward Jason Thompson, center Spencer Hawes and promising rookie Omri Casspi, the Kings have a few nice pieces to build on for the future. When Kevin Martin returns from injury they will improve, although K-Mart will have to get used to being the second option with Tyreke running the show. If he can’t, then the Kings might be able to get a few valuable pieces or an All-Star in return. Ultimately though, I don’t think the Kings will be making the playoffs this season. They still lack quality compared to fellow rebuilding teams like the Thunder, with their young core of Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook. And I think teams like the Lakers, Spurs, Nuggets, Mavs, Suns, Blazers, Jazz and maybe the Rockets will clinch the playoff spots in the West. But I think Tyreke will continue to shine for the Kings this year, and with Blake Griffin still injured for the forseeable future, I can see Evans winning the Rookie of the Year.