In advance of the 2018 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops will be breaking down prospects, both from the college ranks and internationally, with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks will be evaluating in the coming days. More than 50 prospects will be profiled in this space and, in the end, the goal is to inform Hawks fans prior to June 21, when the Hawks are scheduled to make four selections with the first 34 picks.
This edition breaks down the work of Cincinnati’s Jacob Evans.
Jacob Evans entered the 2017-18 NCAA season with high expectations based upon his overall defensive play and the bump in efficiency he demonstrated during his sophomore season. During his junior campaign, his offensive play did not regress all the way to where it was during his freshman season but it did move in the wrong direction. After posting an impressive true shooting percentage of 59.7 percent two seasons ago he was only able to produce a 54.3 percent true shooting last season.
He continues to be an intriguing prospect as a defender, but he does not quite have the size and length to suggest that the positional versatility he offered at the collegiate level is likely translate, at least in full, to the NBA.
Evans demonstrated enough shot making and secondary playmaking at Cincinnati that it is no surprise that he ended up on the radar of NBA evaluators. Last season, he converted 37 percent of his three point attempts and averaged 3.1 assists per game compared to just 1.8 turnovers per contest. That was good enough to earn the trust of fulfilling the role of offensive initiator for the Bearcats. At times, he flashed enough ability to suggest that he might be able to grow his game to the level of a legitimate NBA prospect.
But a closer look at his game appears to indicate that he is not quite as close to being ready to extend his range as a perimeter shooter to the NBA three-point line. Also, he will likely need to get significantly stronger as to be able to operate at the point of attack offensively versus the bigger, more athletic defenders he will encounter at the next level.
As a perimeter shooter, Evans’ mechanics look decent, although his release is a little on the slow side and he will need to achieve improved balance to become a more consistent shooter. But, in the same breath, he shoots with confidence and does not just stand around waiting for the ball to be passed to him. Evans works hard off of the ball to get to his spots and is proactive and purposeful when probing in the offensive half court.
His ability to shoot on the move is probably the most encouraging part of his performance in this area of play. As he does on this play when his defender has to allocate his focus as a potential help defender, he demonstrates excellent recognition and gets separation and creates the simple passing lane for his his teammate.
He is willing to work near the nail in the half-court set, which is encouraging. But, as is seen on this play, despite getting the shot to fall and the opportunity for an additional point at the free throw line he struggles to get to and maintain his spot against the smaller defender.
He is willing to run the floor hard as to look for easy scoring opportunities for his team in transition. But as can be seen on this play, Evans is not especially explosive at the rim and has to rely on timing and a bit of craft on what should have otherwise been an automatic conversion.
On this play in transition, you can see his effort and ability to recognize the play. Evans is communicating for the ball as he crosses half court and sprints to the spot to create the easy passing lane. But he struggles to finish the largely uncontested dunk attempt.
On this play with his team up 13 points with less than four minutes to play, he is being entrusted to run a “4 flat” set to milk the clock and look for a decent shot attempt. He turns his back to the basket and tries to work toward the nail. But Evans lacks the strength to get to his spot and ends up dribbling into a turnover and a run out opportunity for the opposing team.
The team that (might) draft him will likely do so because they believe in his motor and work ethic. He never stops moving, is excellent getting to 50/50 balls and is opportunisitc on the offensive glass.
Evans measured in at 6’4 1/4 , 200 pounds and a wingspan of 6’9 1⁄4 at the recent NBA draft combine. That’s not quite the physical profile NBA teams are looking for in players that they hope can offer the positional versatiltiy of an above average to elite perimeter defender.
But he was an impact defender at the collegiate level and, if he puts it together at the professional level, he would not be the smallest player to make that happen (see Patrick Beverley).
He works as hard on the defensive end of the court, if not harder, than he does on offense. He prides himself as performing as strongly off the ball as he does on the ball. His proactiveness and willingness to take calculated risks serve him well.
On this play, Cincinnati does not get matched up they way they would prefer in this half court possession. Evans ends up basically playing the defensive center on this play. But he looks confident working through the pick and roll. He executes excellent spacing and timing and tracks the play to rim for the shot block.
Evans is off the ball on this possession functioning as the help defender. He demonstrates excellent technique and discipline, staying on the balls of his feet looking to get into the play with precise timing. He gets to the ball handler without creating an obvious passing lane to his man on the three point line. He uses the presence of a defender at the rim to pinch the ball handler into tight space. He shows good timing as a shot blocker on this play as well.
Evans will get a shot with an NBA franchise in some form whether it be at the end of an NBA roster (potentially even as a first round pick), a two-way contract or starting at the G League level. He is a player that a front office, coaching staff and a fan base is likely to find easy to like. He consistently looks to make the right play for his team, intends to persistently outwork the other nine players on the court, and will just always come across as an incredibly selfless players.
He will, however, need to grow his game, especially as an offensive player, if he is to find a way to secure a more permanent spot in the league.