Tyreke Evans showed the Thunder what it missed. The Thunder showed Evans why it’s happy with what it has. The Boomers beat the Sacramento Kings 113-107 Tuesday night at the Ford Center, running their record to 36-23, a season-high 13 games above .500 in this remarkable NBA turnaround. The Thunder soars despite bypassing Evans in the 2009 draft, picking James Harden No. 3 overall. So Sacramento took Evans at No. 4, and now he’s the runaway leader for Rookie of the Year and a future superstar. Evans scored 27 points on the Thunder and kept this game close until the final seconds. Put the 20-year-old Evans in a lineup with Kevin Durant (21), Russell Westbrook (21) and Jeff Green (23), and Oklahoma City imaginations, already spinning wildly, reach the stratosphere. But don’t call taking Harden a draft blunder, despite the one-sidedness of their rookie stats and Tuesday night matchup. Harden has been a solid addition to the Thunder as its sixth man. And besides, the Thunder already had a Tyreke Evans, Overdrive Edition. Russell Westbrook’s ascension to stardom continued Tuesday night: 30 points, 13 assists, five rebounds. And these days, that’s not even an outrageous game for Westbrook. "A real handful,” Kings coach Paul Westphal said of Westbrook. "He’s got extreme speed and quickness, plus exceptional size in that package. He plays with a passion. He keeps improving on both ends of the floor.” Toss in Durant (39 points and 10 rebounds) and Evans, and "there was some phenomenal young talent on display tonight,” Westphal said. "Those three guys playing at the top of their game. It was high-level basketball.” Dreamers can wish for a Durant-Westbrook-Green-Evans quartet, but think it through. Wouldn’t have worked. The Thunder liked Evans in the scouting process. Liked him a lot. But Evans needs the ball in his hands to be effective; the Sacramento offense runs through him. And rightly so. Evans gave defensive demon Thabo Sefolosha fits all night. But if you’ve got the ball in Evans’ hands, it’s not in Westbrook’s, and who thinks that’s a good idea? "Tyreke is as good as any rookie in the league right now,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. But "we have a point guard. We have a very good point guard. We saw the improvement in Russell every day” last season. Thus the drafting of Harden, who is not as flashy and might never make an All-Star team, while Evans will be one sooner than later. Compare them head-to-head, and Evans will get the better of it most nights. Harden made just one of five shots vs. the Kings, finishing with three points, and his rookie numbers (9.8 points, 3.3 rebounds) are dwarfed by Evans’ (20.4 points, 5.4 assists). Yet the Thunder made the right pick; a 36-23 record says so. Harden is a good player who is going to get a lot better. He’s just what this team needed. Good outside shooter. Good playmaker. Fits in well with an already-established young hierarchy. "Our organization did a great job getting James,” Westbrook said. "I think they made the right pick.” Meanwhile, as good as Evans is and as great as he’s going to be, he’s similar to Westbrook. Slashing point guard impossible to keep out of the lane and off the rim. "We’re the same type of player; that’s probably why they passed on me,” Evans said without a twinge of emotion. It’s not any more complicated than the NFL Draft. You don’t take Mark Sanchez one year and Sam Bradford the next. You don’t follow up Russell Westbrook with Tyreke Evans, not if you believe in Westbrook, and the Thunder obviously, and rightly, did. Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.
Thunder at NuggetsWhen: 8 tonight Where: Pepsi Center, Denver TV: KSBI-TV (Cox 15) Radio: WWLS 98.1-FM, 640-AM