"Situational Analysis" is a series of articles that seeks to examine the circumstances that most often influence an NBA prospect’s success. Each player will be scored on a scale from 1-10 in four different categories: NBA-specific skill(s), fatal flaw(s), collegiate/overseas/pre-NBA environment, and ideal NBA ecosystem.
Jawun Evans is a 20-year-old (21 on July 26) point guard from Dallas who averaged 19.2 points, 6.4 assists and 3.4 during his sophomore season for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. NBADraft.net has him projected to go No. 25 overall.
There is only one play that matters in the modern NBA. Everything else exists as window dressing. Every offense requires at least one player who can execute it with lethal precision. If a lead ball handler can’t make it work, he can start pricing flights to Europe. If he can run it well, it can make him rich.
It’s the high screen and roll.
Fortunately for Evans, he operates a high screen with nimble creativity. Nobody runs more high ball-screens than Jawun Evans, and nobody uses them with more variety. Good pick-and-roll point guards know how to shift a defender’s attention away from the pick before it’s set. Great ones know how to anticipate a defender’s tactic and hit him with a counter a half-second early or late. A defender can never seem to gather his bearings while defending Evans on the high screen.
Evans finished in the top 10 in assists last season, despite being the only player in that list to average fewer than 30 minutes per contest (29 mpg). His assists per 40 minutes nearly mirrored Lonzo Ball’s. Put Evans in a Mike D’Antoni-style attack and surround him with skilled 3-point shooters, and he’ll make the right play nine times out of 10.
Evans is a good perimeter shooter with room for improvement, thanks to solid mechanics. He gets to the free-throw line at an elite rate (nearly 8.3 attempts per 40 minutes).
Evans is a thoroughly modern point guard who is arriving at exactly the right time for his skillset.
On a scale from 1-10, Evans’ pick-and-roll game rates at an 8.5.
Scouts always "blow the whistle" on players such as Evans because they are Too $hort. (I’m not going to apologize for that terrible joke. See, the editor of this website is a Bay Area guy, and you have to throw these things in an article from time to time to keep him happy.)
But seriously, height will be an issue.
These websites that list Evans at 6-1 are hilarious. He measured a hair under 5-11 at the NBA Combine without shoes. Very few players under 6-feet enjoy long NBA careers. It’s harsh, but it’s a fact.
I’m of the opinion that a team should always focus on talent and fit above all else, and that height should be a secondary concern. Far too many players slip in the draft because of a couple inches. But with Evans, the height, coupled with a lack of explosive, elite-level athleticism, will present real issues when faced with NBA defenders. Evans shot only 45 percent on 2-point field goals — one of the worst marks of any pro-caliber player in this draft class. Struggling to finish at the rim in college is a major red flag for any point guard, let alone one who measures below 6 feet.
These concerns are somewhat mitigated by Evans’ impressive 6-5.5 wingspan and his character/coachability (reportedly off the charts). It also works in his favor that there are fewer shot-blockers in today’s NBA in order to provide more floor spacing. Still, Evans will find himself at a physical disadvantage against most of his counterparts, making it even more important for him to excel in his strongest areas. His margin for error is slim.
On a scale from 1-10, Evans’ sub-6-foot height and good-not-great athleticism ranks at a 9.
Evans ran the show for Oklahoma State. Brad Underwood’s decision to give Evans the car keys and allow him to run high screens to his heart’s content is a big reason why Evans had the opportunity to declare for the draft and why Underwood cashed in at the University of Illinois after only one season in Stillwater.
Oklahoma State’s attack resembled an NBA game plan, given the frequency of on-ball screens they used. It worked, because the Cowboys enjoyed one of the most surprising turnarounds in the 2016-17 campaign. They hovered around .500 during much of Evans’ freshman year before a shoulder injury against Texas Tech ended his season prematurely. Oklahoma State finished 1-10 without Evans. Only TCU stood in their way of the Big 12 cellar. A year later, a healthy Evans led the Cowboys to a 20-13 mark and an NCAA Tournament berth.
Check out Oklahoma State’s offensive efficiency numbers:
2015-16: 0.990 points per possession, no Evans for the final third of the season.
2016-17: 1.147 points per possession, No. 5 in the nation, Evans as the offensive focal point.
College was the perfect opportunity for Evans to show NBA teams what he does best, which just happens to be a skill in high demand.
On a scale from 1-10, Evans’ time in college rates at a 9.5. It would have been a 10 without the shoulder injury.
Ideal NBA Ecosystem
Does your favorite team run a lot of pick and roll? Evans can help you!
The NBA has more elite-level point guards than ever before, but teams are always in need of a quality rotation player who can hold down the offense for those stretches in the second and fourth quarters when stars take a breather. I don’t see Evans as a playoff-level starter, but I do see him as one of the league’s best backup point guards, with the potential to turn a major playoff run into one huge contract — Patty Mills, for example.
But what about Isaiah Thomas?
Yes, Isaiah Thomas, all 5-foot-7 of him, is a miracle of an NBA player. Height, or lack thereof, didn’t stop him from posting one of the most incredible offensive seasons in league history. If he can score 29 per game, why can’t players such as Evans replicate that level of success?
This is where I think teams will get themselves into trouble. Isaiah Thomas, Draymond Green — these guys are one-of-a-kind. Drafting someone because they kind-of, sort-of remind you of the best possible version of that player is how you end up in the lottery.
Draft players with clear eyes and reasonable expectations. Should Evans develop into another Thomas or Chris Paul, consider that a MAJOR bonus. Draft Evans with the belief that you’re acquiring another highly skilled, mature, and exemplary pick-and-roll operator.
I assume Houston is already working out a million different scenarios to try to snag him near the end of the first round. I can also see Utah taking him as high as 24, as that second unit could desperately use another ball handler. The Spurs are always a threat. I can also see Evans staying in Oklahoma, as long as the Thunder are OK with someone other than Russell Westbrook dribbling the ball more than once.
On a scale from 1-10, Evans’ need to be drafted by a modern, pick-and-roll heavy team rates at a 9.