All reports indicated that the Warriors were targeting a two-way wing with No. 28 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. They selected just that on Thursday, taking 6-foot-6 shooting guard/small forward Jacob Evans out of Cincinnati.
Evans, 21, played three seasons with the Bearcats, earning first-team All-AAC honors in 2018, while averaging 13.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. His efforts helped lead Cincinnati to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament and put Evans in the running for the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year award. Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin called Evans the smartest player he has ever coached.
On paper, Evans has two obvious attributes that the Bob Myers-era Warriors have coveted over the years. The first is his length. In addition to his prototypical height, Evans has a 6-foot-9 wingspan, making him a versatile defender capable of handling switches. Averaging 1.3 steals per game, Evans was one of the top defenders in the American Athletic Conference in 2018. Though not blessed with an exceptional vertical leap, Evans’ defensive instincts and length have made him a surprisingly good shot blocker at his position.
The obvious appeal of Jacob Evans to the Warriors: springy jumper, surprising shot blocker at the 2-guard, quick hands, polished defender pic.twitter.com/ExoPwd6F2s
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) June 22, 2018
These attributes make him a perfect fit on a Warriors team with an already extensive supply of exceptionally long defenders, including previous first-round picks Kevon Looney and Damian Jones, both of whom have listed wingspans of 7-foot-4.
Evans can also fill it up from deep, shooting 37.7 percent (174-of-462) from 3-point range throughout his college career. In a vacuum, Evans resembles a prototypical 3-and-D type NBA prospect, something Golden State’s bench currently lacks, proving why Evans is likely to be thrown into the regular season rotation almost immediately.
“I don’t think Steve’s going to have any problem putting him out there,” Myers said of Evans shortly after making the selection.
The Warriors elected to go with Evans over a plethora of other wings still on the board such as Melvin Frazier, De’Anthony Melton, and Khyri Thomas.
Evans was initially considered a fringe first-round prospect just a couple months ago, with most big boards placing him somewhere around the 30-35th overall range. But Evans slowly climbed draft boards over the past few weeks after a number of strong workouts, including one with the Warriors a day after their championship parade. According to Jacob Rauch of Fox Cincinnati, the Warriors were the only team two work Evans out twice during the pre-draft process.
Just heard from Jacob Evans who’s flying home from his final workout to watch the draft.
Worked out for 13 teams.
Worked out for one team twice:
— Jeremy Rauch (@FOX19Jeremy) June 21, 2018
The primary knock against Evans throughout his college career was consistency. Despite leading the team in scoring in 2017-18, Evans had eight games where he scored in single digits. He is not considered an elite athlete despite his size, and is viewed as a below-average rebounder for his position, never grabbing more than eight boards in a single game all of last year. Evans isn’t considered outstanding in any facet, but rather a collection of above-average traits that scouts are quite sure will translate at the NBA level.
In short, Evans seems extremely similar to 2016 second-round draft pick Patrick McCaw, another 3-and-D prospect who has struggled at times (see all of last year) with his aggressiveness and consistency. McCaw is a perfect example of a player that theoretically has all the tools to be effective in the Warriors’ system, but hasn’t quite been able to adjust to the speed and quick decision-making the NBA requires.
Whether Evans can adjust remains to be seen, but based on Golden State’s desire to play him right away, we are likely to find out very soon.