The draft class of 2009 was eligible for rookie scale extensions heading into this season, and more of those players (eight) were extended than in any offseason since 2008. That figure is a little surprising when recalling the top few players selected in the 2009 draft — Blake Griffin and James Harden were no-brainer extension candidates, and were locked up to max deals by their respective teams. However, Hasheem Thabeet and Jonny Flynn didn't even play out their rookie contracts, and Ricky Rubio isn't for a new deal until 2014, having remained overseas for a couple years.
The other guy at the top of the 2009 draft class not to receive an extension was fourth overall pick Tyreke Evans, who represents perhaps the most interesting case of the bunch. The Kings' ownership and uncertain financial situation, which has been making headlines over the last couple days, could be partially blamed for Sacramento not ponying up the money to extend Evans. But it's not as if the 23-year-old was entirely deserving of that extension. Since his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2009/10, Evans has never matched the PPG and PER rates he posted in year one, and has struggled to find an optimal role in Sacramento.
With reports suggesting that the Kings franchise could be changing hands (and cities) by next season, it's hard to assess exactly what Evans' future holds. New ownership and/or management may value the young scorer more or less than the current group, and if the franchise is in flux when the trade deadline approaches, the Kings may simply choose to stand pat, rather than being active on the trade market. For now, though Grantland's Zach Lowe writes that the Kings are "open for business," and Evans appears to be a more likely trade candidate than teammate DeMarcus Cousins.
Evans hasn't always been on the same page with the front office, and recently told Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee that he'd be neither shocked nor devastated if he were dealt next month. Voisin's report suggested that the Grizzlies had inquired on Evans, and that the Lakers, Celtics, and Nuggets had also shown interest in the past. Memphis makes a little sense as a trade partner to me, considering the Grizzlies are shopping Rudy Gay. A package that includes Evans and Francisco Garcia's expiring contract could be a starting point for a conversation between the two sides, with the Kings landing the small forward they've long coveted and the Grizzlies gaining some cap flexibility. But I have my doubts that Sacramento would take on a pricey, long-term deal like Gay's at this point, and the Grizzlies, faced with the prospect of losing Evans in a matter of months, would likely also be wary about making such a move.
It's hard to see an ideal fit with the Lakers, whose roster is made up primarily of aging, expensive assets, or the Nuggets, who probably don't have the future cap flexibility to extend Evans unless they dump one or two long-term contracts on the Kings. The Celtics make a little more sense, but I'd have to think Boston would balk at including Avery Bradley, and I'm not sure Sacramento does a deal without him.
There are a few other teams who could find Evans' expiring deal attractive, such as the Mavericks — if the Mavs could put together a package for Evans, they'd hold his Bird Rights, giving them the option of re-signing him in the summer if they don't land one of their bigger free agent targets. However, Dallas already has a wing scorer in O.J. Mayo, who may ultimately be a better value next summer than Evans. The Suns, expected to be active prior to the trade deadline, could be another potential suitor, though with Goran Dragic and Kendall Marshall already manning the point in Phoenix, it might turn into a repeat of the situation in Sacramento, with Evans struggling to find a position.
Because Evans' value isn't exactly at its peak right now, and the Kings' future as a franchise is up in the air, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see the former Rookie of the Year to remain in Sacramento through this year's deadline. That would leave the team a couple decisions this summer — whether to issue Evans a qualifying offer (worth about $6.93MM), and then whether to match any offer sheet he signs elsewhere. Still, it's certainly worth keeping an eye on the situation as February 21st approaches. Even though Evans hasn't lived up to his potential so far in Sacramento, a change of scenery and a new coaching staff may help the fourth-year player recapture some of that promise he showed when he first entered the league.