Early on in Sacramento's opener against the Bulls, Evans looked like a different player. The explosion to his right was still there. (Though he showed no evidence of having improved his ability to go left, another unplugged hole in his game.) And his jump shot looked good. Evans scored 11 points in the first quarter against Chicago on four shots, hitting a 3-pointer and another shot just inside the arc, which prompted tweets praising his improved shot. I agreed, but then again, shots that go in always look good.
Evans then rested, and spent the next quarter or so floating around the weak side on offense and swinging the ball when it came his away. Kings coach Keith Smart ran very few plays for him, and Evans didn't do much other than spot up.
But when DeMarcus Cousins got into foul trouble, Evans started forcing the issue by driving the lane repeatedly, and he had success. The Kings lost, but Evans finished with an efficient 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting and committed just two turnovers. Was this a smarter version of Evans?
Since that encouraging opener, Evans has been awful. He's had shooting performances of 3-for-14, 5-for-15 and 1-for-9. In Sunday's loss to the Lakers, Evans was not a featured player, getting just nine shots in 26 minutes.
He made 4 of 5 around the hoop, but was 0-for-4 away from it.
Evans is shooting 37 percent from the field and is just 7-for-43 (16.3 percent) away from the hoop, playing almost all of his minutes at shooting guard. Yes, it's early. But there is no evidence that Evans has improved his game. Next summer, assuming Evans finishes the season with the Kings, Sacramento will have to decide whether to tender Evans a $6.9 million qualifying offer. If his season doesn't get better, there will be a solid case against doing so.
This is a case of badly botched player development, though it's not clear who to blame. The onus falls on Sacramento's management. Does it have to find more motivated players, or does it have to do a better job developing them?
The answer to that question will be key in deciding if the Kings are ever able to have another cycle of success.