Rumors abound that the Los Angeles Lakers are not interested in re-signing upcoming free agent point guard Isaiah Thomas, who was ruled out for the season after undergoing hip surgery last week. As a result, several names have been linked to the team with Memphis Grizzlies shooting guard Tyreke Evans emerging as a potential replacement for the two-time All-Star, according to LA Sports Hub.
The 29-year-old Thomas has actually shown that he could complement well on the court with the Lakers’ young players, such as Lonzo Ball and Julius Randle, even with only 17 games under his belt with the Hollywood squad. However, with the former Washington standout expected to pursue a bigger contract in free agency this July, the report said that he might choose to take a huge “payday over the return to L.A.”
Thomas is in the final year of the four-year, $27 million deal he signed with the Boston Celtics during the summer of 2014 that earns him an average of only $6.7 million per season. He was considered as one of the most underpaid players in the NBA, especially following an MVP-caliber season when he finished fifth in MVP voting averaging 28.9 points, 5.9 assists, and 2.7 rebounds in 33.8 minutes per game with the Celtics.
However, his game and reputation made a steep decline in the last 12 months after what some analysts believe was a premature comeback from a hip injury that sidelined him in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. His rumored locker room conflicts with former Cleveland Cavaliers teammates and coaches did not help at all to upgrade his perceived value. He ended up appearing in only 32 games this season (15 for the Cavs) and averaged dismal numbers of 15.2 points, 4.8 assists, and 2.1 boards in 26.9 minutes a night.
Although Thomas had embraced playing a substitute role with the Lakers, there are still rumors that he might seek to have a starting job if another team could provide it for him. Leaving L.A. would also be possible if he gets the right offer this summer, the report said.
With that, LA Sports Hub listed three possible candidates to take over Thomas’ bench spot and Evans was one of them. The 2010 Rookie of the Year would be coming off one of his best seasons in the NBA, averaging 19.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.1 steals in 30.9 minutes per game for the Grizzlies.
There are rumors that Memphis almost traded him at this year’s deadline, but the team decided to keep him at the last minute even at the risk of losing him for nothing this summer. Like Thomas, Evans is also set to become an unrestricted free agent in July.
The report said that Evans’ outside shooting and versatility to play multiple positions on the court would help the Lakers tremendously. It continued that a $10 million annual salary may be enough to sign the former Memphis Tigers star to a long-term deal.