There’s probably thousands of people named Jacob Evans in the world, but only one can play basketball like this one. A 6’6″ SG/SF out of the University of Cincinnati, Evans seems like he could be the right guy at the right time for the Chicago Bulls. Projected to be selected around the 22nd pick across mock drafts, Evans also fits the Bulls’ small forward need.
While his 2016-17 numbers were slightly better than those of 2017-18, his draft stock didn’t really fall. Thus, he’s a name Bulls fans should get to know over the next month.
Born in North Carolina, Evans would eventually move to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He attended St. Michael the Archangel High School, and earned a consensus four-star prospect rating for his recruitment.
Cincinnati soon landed the Louisiana Mr. Basketball Nominee, and Evans didn’t hesitate to make an impact. During his first year, he averaged 24.4 minutes per game, setting himself up for a breakout second season. He did just that, starting all 36 contests on his way to posting the best campaign of his college career in 2016-17.
Evans’ numbers worsened a tad in his last campaign. His field goal percentage dropped by over 4.5% to a 42.7% mark, which stemmed from both 2-point and 3-point accuracy decreases. Additionally, he turned the ball over more, as his TPG rose from 1.3 to 1.8 in his final season.
Looking on the bright side, Evans enjoyed a rise in assists and rebounds up to 3.7 and 4.1 respectively, while also upping his free throw percentage to 75%. His statistical differences from year to year certainly aren’t encouraging, but they also don’t make me panic about his overall talent level.
For the most part, Evans is a prototypical 3&D prospect. He’s got a solid build at 6’6″, 210 pounds with a 6’9 wingspan, defends well, and despite the regression, his 37.0% accuracy from range last season is adequate.
What strikes me about Evans’ shooting ability is his quick, confident form. Often you’ll see him spot up off the pass or a quick dribble, and he does this without hesitation. Take note of that in this clip, which also showcases his hustle and rebounding prowess that helped create the shot in the first place.
Overall, Evans isn’t a standout athlete or ball handler. He possesses some explosiveness, but won’t get to the rim often using acrobatic plays or finessing his way through the defense.
Yet it’s evident that that doesn’t fully limit his driving arsenal. In this manner, he reminds me a lot of Jimmy Butler. When he gets a full head of steam, he’s hard to stop. Even in a half-court set, if you give him too much space, he’ll make you pay. Watch him get the steal, push it, and power his way for the and-1 play.
If you think that transition highlight is impressive, wait until you see this next one. Here, Evans first exhibits his defensive abilities in transition. Moving his feet well, he is able to contest the layup attempt. Then, when the rest of his teammates jog, Evans hustles up court, waits for the defender to fly by, and lays it in.
So long as we’re talking about defense and Jimmy Butler, I must clarify that Evans is not quite as polished defensively as Butler was coming into their respective drafts. But he’s not too far off. He closes out well and overall plays aggressively when on the ball.
Easily big enough to defend his position, Evans also notches a respectable amount of blocks and steals. Back to that Wichita State conference-clinching game, which the Bearcats went on to win thanks to Evans’ 19 points and 7 rebounds, he tallies both a block and steal in the paint.
Now time for weaknesses. Really, there’s no glaring vulnerabilities in his game. But, like all players, there’s definitely areas where he could improve more than others.
A lot of it stems from his lack of finesse. Essentially, Evans sometimes struggles creating space off the dribble. This leads to regrettable shots and the occasional forced pass, though Evans’ assist to turnover ratio is about average. As noticeable here, he might create a little bit of separation, but not enough to do much, especially without any remarkable burst.
With imperfections like these, it’d be beneficial for him to shoot well off screens. Unfortunately that’s not the case, as his niche is really those spot-up shots.
Lastly, in today’s NBA he could struggle staying in front of the faster small forwards, as he’s not particularly quick. But that’s as far as his defensive knocks go in my book.
If Gar Forman and Co. were to draft Evans, he would almost certainly play small forward, what with Zach LaVine (probably) returning as a shooting guard.
First things first, though, Evans needs to be available at 22 for Chicago to get him. Reporters from the NBA Combine felt he performed well last week, though so did many other prospects according to NBA Draft analyst Jonathan Wasserman. I honestly think it’s a coin flip if he will be there for the Bulls, so we’re just going to have to wait and see.
I see Evans as a high floor, medium ceiling prospect. Versatile and consistent, I would be shocked if he wasn’t part of a team’s rotation for years to come.
Accordingly, he doesn’t flash a lot of superstar potential. Unless his progression rivals that of Butler’s in terms of ball handling and attacking the rim, Evans won’t be averaging over 20 PPG. Still, that’s not what the Bulls really need. He could certainly develop into a top-10 SF, and with Chicago’s talent elsewhere, a player like that would be welcome at No. 22 in this year’s draft.
Follow Tim Moran on Twitter @TLS_TimM — Feature Photo Credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images North America