Since the college basketball season ended for the Cincinnati Bearcats, the next big date to look forward to was June 21 and the NBA Draft. Although the Bearcats have not had a player drafted since Lance Stephenson was selected in the second round in 2010, this year is different. Star swingman Jacob Evans opted to forgo his senior season at UC in order to chase the NBA dream. Its a dream he should soon realize as he is pegged to be taken in the first round, which is a major reason he ultimately stuck to his decision to leave when the early entry withdrawal deadline came and went.
As he transitions to the NBA, the biggest part of Evans’ game that should translate quickly is his defense. Not many collegiate players get a chance to be forged in the unrelenting pressure of Mick Cronin’s defensive system. Evans got that chance and he excelled. He accounted for 6.9 defensive win shares in his three seasons at UC, including a career-high of 3.1 this past season. His defensive rating was always below 100 and he made real strides in not only being a defender in a system but in one-on-one situations. During his career, he was always very good at closing out and shutting down passing lanes, but he added improved shot-blocking ability as a senior.
Blocking shots is not all that he added to his game as he developed. He also became a much better passer from year to year, which should be helpful at the next level when he won’t be the No. 1 or No. 2 scoring option like he was at UC. In many ways, Evans’ steady progression and ability to improve in multiple areas in such a short period of time shows that he has the ability to learn and improve. That should not be ignored from a player that will likely go in the late first round.
Last, but certainly not least, Evans has some scoring talent. He came to UC and was considered an offense-first player. While he wasn’t out there scoring 20 points per game (career 11.7 PPG), Evans has the ability to shoot from everywhere on the floor and isn’t afraid to make space for his own shot or pull up when draped by defenders. His three-point shooting should be particularly useful at the next level after he shot 37.7 percent from distance in college.
Areas to Improve
As much as his offensive game is solid, Evans certainly needs work when it comes to scoring in the NBA. At 6’6”, he has some length at his disposal, but he still needs to work on his ability to get to the rim, especially when the defensive pressure is ramped up. In addition, he could always stand to be a more efficient scorer. While his true shooting percentage of .551 for his career his solid, his efficiency dropped as a junior, when he had a true shooting percentage of .543 and an effective mark of .507. The latter was a nearly 70-point drop from the year before.
Evans is also a fine rebounder, but he could stand to be a bit more aggressive and effective in that arena as well.
Current Player Comparison
Ceiling - Khris Middleton
Floor - Allen Crabbe
Just Right - Kent Bazemore or Danny Green
While Evans could be a good fit for a number of teams, we’ll limit the pool to teams picking from No. 20 to No. 30, which is the range most have him projected for. The Indiana Pacers make a lot of sense at No. 23 and I’m not the only one saying that. The Utah Jazz at No. 21 are another intriguing landing spot because of their dedication to defense and the 76ers (No. 26) need depth. Evans can provide that. All of those teams would likely make for quicker routes to the NBA, but I think developing with Boston (No. 27) or Golden State (No. 28), which are two teams he worked out with twice, could be extremely beneficial for him in the long run.
When Will He Be Picked?
I’m not a mock draft architect. Even if I was, based on the breadth of picks and teams Evans has been attached to in the ocean of mock drafts out there, this is a very difficult prediction to make. But that’s why I’m here. To make those difficult predictions. Evans will be selected No. 28 overall by the Golden State Warriors. Book it.