(Joe Robbins/NBAE/Getty Images)
Getting To Know Jacob Evans
by Brian Witt
Five things to know about the newest member of the Golden State Warriors.
Coming into Thursday's Draft, the Warriors had a few specific characteristics in mind for the player they hoped to select with the 28th overall pick. A day later, it appears they checked off each of those boxes.
"He's kind of the modern NBA wing," said Bob Myers in speaking of Jacob Evans at his post-Draft press conference. "Versatile, tough and high-character kid. So we're thrilled."
Perhaps that shouldn't come as a shock, considering that the phone call Evans received on Thursday night notifying him that he'd been selected by Golden State at the tail end of the first round was not his first interaction with the Warriors. Not even close.
Evans, a 6'6" junior out of the University of Cincinnati, attended not one, but two pre-draft workouts at the Rakuten Performance Center at the Warriors practice facility. The first occurred during Golden State's Championship parade. The Dubs clearly saw enough that they liked, because they invited him back for another workout the day before the Draft.
Safe to say, the subsequent workout went well.
Golden State selected Evans and his 6'9" wingspan with the 28th overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft, which proved to be the Warriors' sole selection of the night. The guard/forward averaged 11.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.14 steals in 29.1 minutes per game over 105 career games in three seasons at Cincinnati, garnering American Athletic Conference First Team honors in his junior and final collegiate season.
Here are five things to know about the newest member of the Golden State Warriors:
In terms of the switch-everything modern NBA game, Evans appears to be a natural fit. Defensively, he guarded all three wing positions, whereas on offense, he typically played off the ball, but tended to have the rock in his hands in crunch time.
"He's the real deal when it comes to versatility," said Cincinnati associate head coach Larry Davis. "He's not Kyle Korver as a shooter. He's not Kyrie Irving as a scorer. He's not as good as those guys at either one of those things, but he's pretty good at both. I tell scouts all the time, he can play one, two or three, and guard them, too. If he gets switched off onto a four, he can fight them off."
He's a student of the game:
"He's got ball skills, and in 35 years of doing this, he might be in the top three guys I've had in terms of intelligence," continued Davis. "He's off the charts."
"He's a winner," said Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin. "He shoots a high percentage. He's an elite defender. He blocks shots. He guards point guards. He rebounds. He just does so many things, and he's a coach on the floor. He's such a smart player."
High basketball IQ was one of the characteristics the Warriors prioritized in their draft search, and based on the comments of his former coaches, as well as the Warriors' General Manager, it appears they hit the nail on the head in Evans.
"He knows how to play," said Myers. "Knowing how to play means a lot of different things. It just means not making mistakes mentally, not making mistakes physically, not hurting your team. And I think when you watch him, you see a lot of those attributes in him."
He'll fit in the locker room:
Another characteristic the Warriors prioritized in their selection: high character.
Evans, who is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was never recruited by nearby LSU. He transferred to a private school for high school, but had to sit out his freshman year because he lived outside the school's attendance zone. Then, he broke his leg the summer before his sophomore season. He fought a nagging ankle injury throughout his junior season, before breaking through and averaging 24.9 points, 9.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game as a senior. It was enough to get the attention of the Cincinnati coaching staff, who offered Evans a scholarship. Evans accepted, and continued to improve his game from there:
"Not all players reach their potential. Jacob is reaching his because he was willing to work hard," said Davis. "He spent extra time in the weight room and on conditioning to transform his body. When some guys were out doing other things, Jacob was in the gym shooting and doing drills."
Evans grew another two inches in college, but always understood that success is earned, not given:
"I kind of saw myself as an underdog," said Evans. "I didn't have the hype behind my name. From the day I got on campus, the coaches made sure I worked hard every day, as hard as I could, controlling what I can control. What you put into this game is what you get out. You can never be a perfect basketball player, and you can never be satisfied."
He's an advanced defender:
A quick glimpse at Evans' collegiate highlight reel will reveal numerous blocks and steals of the eye-opening variety. His agility combined with his long wingspan allows him to press up on opponents on the perimeter, while permitting him the time to recover to alter a potential shot. He averaged 1.0 blocks and 1.3 steals per game as a junior, making him one of only two players in the American Athletic Conference that averaged at least one block and one steal per game.
"Defensively he can play," said Myers. "He can guard the 1, 2, 3, he can switch screens — the modern kind of game that we're dealing with. It's not many players that can guard Western Conference point guards, Western Conference 2-guards, 3's. That's a skill right there."
"So you'd like to believe Jacob Evans is a guy where, he can hold down his position and not only that, he can switch onto another position, he can hold that down, too."
He can shoot the three:
Evans finished fifth in Cincinnati school history with a career 37.7 three-point shooting percentage. To put that in perspective, the Celtics were the second-best three-point shooting team in the league during the regular season, converting threes at an identical 37.7 percent clip (Golden State was first at 39.1 percent).
As solid as that number is, it actually doesn't paint the whole picture; Evans was perhaps an even better volume three-point shooter than the cumulative numbers indicate.
After struggling somewhat as a freshman (45-of-135, .333), Evans made a big leap in his three-point proficiency, making 41.8 percent (69-of-165) of his attempts from beyond the arc as a sophomore. He maintained that marksmanship into his junior season, where he shot 42.0 percent from beyond the arc up until the end of January.
Evans finished his junior season with a 37.0 three-point shooting percentage, experiencing a drop-off after suffering an injury to his right index finger in February. Ironically, the game in which he suffered the injury was the game that Myers had flown out to see him play in person. Cincinnati blew out the opponent by 37 points, and Evans was limited to 25 minutes due to a combination of the injury and the score. He finished the game 1-of-5 from the field. Despite the modest numbers, Myers had seen enough:
"He's a serious player," Myers said. "He's defensive-minded. You don't see a ton of college kids locked in on that side of the ball. Has a knack for it, on-the-ball defender and off-the-ball defender. Had a nose for rebounding. You could picture him playing in an NBA game. That's kind of what I walked away [thinking]."
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