In advance of the 2017 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops will be breaking down a wide variety of players that could be available for the Atlanta Hawks at either No. 19 or No. 31. The series will stretch throughout the month of June and today’s breakdown revolves around Oklahoma State point guard Jawun Evans.
There are not many players in this draft class that are more fun to watch that the sophomore point guard from Oklahoma State, Jawun Evans. He plays an uptempo, aggressive style on both ends of the court and doesn’t back down from anything. Whichever teams takes him, he is very likely to quickly become a fan favorite.
Evans was third in the NCAA with 8.8 assists per 40 minutes. The only players that ranked ahead of him were a pass first (pass only?) point guard at Belmont University, Austin Luke, and this other guy named Lonzo Ball. His three-point percentage dropped from 47.5% during his freshman season to a still acceptable 37.6% his sophomore season, but it seems clear that he was working very specifically to grow other parts of his game as an offensive creator.
Evans has a solid handle and a very good in and out dribble. He is very shifty with the ball and is excellent at creating separation from his defender. He is very comfortable in the pick and roll and demonstrates good patience. If the first screen does not result in an opening he continues probing until he can get the separation he wants or find a passing lane. Especially when considering his size (5’11, 185) he is very comfortable working in tight space, which is pretty unusual for a young player.
His shooting mechanics need a little work and he has not yet demonstrated that he is going to be a plus shooter from the NBA 3-point line. But he is very good shooting off of the dribble, a skill that has tremendous value in the modern NBA, and he is very good at creating his own shot.
He knows how to take advantage when a big gets switched on to him and is just generally very aggressive. He can struggle to finish at the rim when encountering longer defenders, but he can often take advantage of mistake-prone bigs and get to the free throw line for easy points (7.9 FTA/40 minutes).
Evans is not afraid to mix it up on the defensive end, even when matching up with bigger opponents. He is the kind of under-sized defender that can drive big players crazy at times. He has excellent hands and good instincts and feel for stripping the ball. He plays bigger than he is, but taller shooters can sometimes simply take advantage and just shoot over him.
He will need to re-calibrate his level of aggressiveness at the next level. NBA guards love to punish players that gamble and miss. The turnovers he creates do often lead to transition opportunities, and he has the speed to turn the court over quickly, so he will just need to find the right balance to be a helpful defender at the professional level.
His motor will probably be his best defensive asset at the NBA level. But he will need to learn how to play within the team concept and scheme. Oklahoma State was the most efficient offensive team in the NCAA last season by some metrics but was not the most sophisticated or advanced defensive team.
Fit for the Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks roster is just about as short as any roster in the league when it comes to offensive creation, from that vantage point one would think that Evans is at least on their radar. Some observers of this draft class kind of lump a lot of point guards together after getting past Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and Dennis Smith. But, for me, the amount of offensive that Evans can create separates him from much of the field.
I think Evans needs to be in a situation in which he can play early in his career. He is not the kind of player that is going to find the G League challenging, although he might need some time just to get defensive reps to tighten up that area of his game before he can be trusted with any important minutes. For example, I don’t think the Celtics did Demetrius Jackson any favors by playing him all of 17 minutes during his age 22 season.
The amount of confidence the Hawks have regarding whether or not Malcolm Delaney will bounce back in his second NBA season could impact whether the Hawks think that Evans could return the value of drafting him with the No. 19 pick. I think the odd are 50/50 at best that Evans will be available at the No. 31 spot.
I consider Evans to be one of the top five (real) point guards in this draft. But unless there is a clear plan to play him real minutes this season, it would seem that the Hawks could get more value from drafting another player. Still, if a lot of the mock drafts are more correct than I am and Evans is available at the No. 31 spot, he could be an incredible value in that scenario.