“Evans is very athletic, but he’s a 190-pound power forward. He’s the second draft pick who didn’t make our Top 100. As we can see, late second-round picks can be pretty random.” -ESPN’s Chad Ford, June 25, 2010.
The above account is all ESPN’s top draft expert could come up with on Utah’s 55th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.. Three years later, Jeremy Evans is still a “very athletic,” and still pretty close to “a 190-pound power forward” – listed at 197 (up from 194 last season). He’s since become a Sprite Slam Dunk champion and a runner-up, but even entering this year was still viewed by many as more athlete than basketball player.
That’s clearly changed this season. In his first 4 regular season games, Evans is averaging 8.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1 block in 17 minutes per game (equivalent to 17.0/7.7/2.1 Per-36). He’s done it while shooting a remarkable 16-20 (80%) from the floor and he’s done it in a variety of ways all over the court.
While Evans’ screen-roll ability and confidence in his mid-range jumper has certainly improved by leaps and bounds, it’s debatable how much his accuracy actually has. Going back to his rookie season, Evans has always shot a good percentage away from the basket on extremely limited attempts.
Jeremy Evans Shooting Accuracy Distribution
|0-8 Feet||8-16 Feet||16-24 Feet|
When it comes to lower profile prospects, I’ve always felt you learn a lot more about them from the fans who watched them play for 3-4 seasons than from the draft “experts” who watch maybe 15% of their games (or in David Locke’s case 1 game of their career) and then come to conclusions about a player’s ability and potential. Following the 2010 draft, there were several Western Kentucky fans who offered their insights on Evans on Jazzfanz.com.
Here are some samplings:
–adamleroi22: “I’m a student from WKU that has been watching Evan’s game for the last 3 years…Jeremy can knock down the 3, in fact he knocked down a couple last season.* That really isn’t his game, but if he can shake his nervousness behind the 3 point line then he will be a good asset from deep. But I wouldn’t rely on it”
*Note: Evans shot 9-21 (43%) behind the arc in 3 seasons at Western Kentucky.
“...he has MAJOR hops, blocking ability, and he can dunk a basketball down a players throat. lol The only foreseeable problem is what most people has already stated, and that is his weight. One thing he has done is improve his reflexes, you even saw it in summer league. He gets pushed back defending but his lightning quick reflexes were able to regain composure and jump and block the shot.”
–hilltopper06: “I’d say his ceiling at SF is a taller, more athletic, better shooting, better teammate version of Trevor Ariza. Even that is a stretch. I think he is better suited to add some bulk (if at all possible, I think it is) and play PF. At PF his best case scenario is Tyrus Thomas with a better head on his shoulders. I think that is totally reachable.”
–pstradio: “I host an ESPN Radio Show in Bowling Green, KY and have watched Jeremy Evans the last 4 years. For starters should he make the squad you are getting an unreal kid in terms of character. Extremely humble, polite, and hard worker! I really can’t say enough good things about Jeremy.”
–WeakSauce: “I am a from WKU and actually a friend of his…Jeremy’s stats are misleading…Jeremy could have easily averaged 13,10, and 3 in a different system…His biggest presence for us was on the defensive end and his shot blocking ability….
He can shoot from the outside but rarely ever did. I have seen him in practice and pre-game warm ups stroking college range 3’s. He does have kind of a slow release on his long range jump shots though. His athleticism always made up the difference in that area, but I know it will need a little tweaking for the NBA. But he has a quick release closer to the basket.
I wouldnt count on him putting on too much weight. He might be able to push to get up to 220. But that is gonna take a lot of work. He has the fastest metabolism ever. The coaches and trainers here tried to get weight on him ever since he was a freshman. He put on about 10 lbs during his for years here. That is with the coaches making him eat everything in sight too lol….He has the same athletic build as Durant ( no i am not comparing him to Durant other then the body type). But I also think if he can get up to 220-225 lbs then he could be a decent PF. He is alot stronger then he looks, and his athleticism can make up for the lack of bulk against other PF…You really got a great player and a great guy. Hope you all come to love him as much as all of us at WKU have.”
Obviously when you have a vested interest in someone you tend to be more optimistic, but these evaluations appear to be fairly accurate with Evans now in the midst of his fourth NBA season. As a rookie, Evans played short stints as a backup PF where Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson designed what became known as “The Early-Oop” – in which Utah would start Evans at the high-post like they normally would in their flex, have him fake like he was coming up to set a ball-screen then spin back toward the rim for an alley-oop pass (almost always from backup PG Earl Watson).
Evans playing time actually declined over the next two seasons, although in the few opportunities he received in 2012-13, he produced while demonstrating that had a reliable mid-range jumper but needed to be perhaps coaxed into letting it fly. After another offseason of work – Evans showed up at the 2013 Orlando Summer League showing no hesitation in pulling the trigger.
Evans is far from a infallible player. He’ll always struggle to battle stronger NBA post players in the paint and on the boards, has committed a few too many turnovers this season and long-term you wonder about his durability – but the positives clearly stand out when watching him play. There’s maybe a dozen players in the world who are 6-9 and can do some of the things Evans does above the rim, but most importantly – he’s now incorporated a skillset into his athleticism to the point he can do a lot of good things in the pick&roll or pick&pop in addition to all the freaky athletic plays.
In July of 2012, Evans re-signed with the Jazz on a 3 year deal worth approximately $5.3 million. With a salary of $1.7 million this season and $1.8 million next, he could turn into a major bargain if he can continue to find (and receive) a consistent role off-the-bench.
Beginning with Scott Layden and Jerry Sloan and continuing under Kevin O’Connor, the Jazz had enjoyed a terrific stretch of finding and developing 2nd-round draft picks (Bryon Russell, Shandon Anderson, Mo Williams, Jarron Collins, C.J. Miles, Paul Millsap). Utah’s good fortune in the 2nd-round began run dry over the past 5-6 years, but the 190-pound power forward from the Sun Belt conference has turned into a bona fide draft night steal.
Evans may not have been on Chad Ford’s Top-100 draft list, but if he stays healthy and continues to knockdown 20-footers – in a year and a half his name will definitely show up on some free agent ones.