Why the Warriors were thrilled to get 'modern NBA wing' Jacob Evans

Why the Warriors were thrilled to get 'modern NBA wing' Jacob Evans

OAKLAND -- Insofar as they don’t expect to have Nick Young next season and can’t assume they’ll have Patrick McCaw, it's not surprising the Warriors selected Cincinnati’s Jacob Evans III in the first round of the NBA Draft Thursday night.

It is, under the circumstances and given his tools, the logical call.

Evans is a 6-foot-6, 210-pound wing on a team that found itself thin on wings last season. Young and McCaw accounted for half the inventory, and Young was on a one-year contract and McCaw will be a restricted free agent.

Mainstays Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala are the only other wings on the roster.

Most of the players the Warriors brought in for pre-draft workouts were shooting guards or small forwards. Evans, taken with the 28th overall pick, falls into that category. He made two visits, the first on June 12, the day of the championship parade, and the most recent on Wednesday.

“He’s kind of the modern NBA wing: versatile, tough and a high-character kid,” general manager Bob Myers said after the draft. “We’re thrilled. We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to get him. We had him rated higher than he went to us, and he fits a lot of things we do. So we’re happy.”

Evans, who turned 21 on Monday, led the Bearcats in scoring (13.0 points per game) and assists (3.1) as a junior last season and shot 39.4 percent (129-of-327) from deep over his final two seasons.

But his ability to play immediately while guarding multiple positions was particularly appealing. Evans has been defending three perimeter positions since playing high school ball at St. Michael the Archangel in Baton Rouge, La.

“He’s a guy who is defensive-minded,” Myers said. “You don’t see a ton of college kids locked in on that side of the ball. He has kind a knack for it, on-the-ball defender or off-the-ball defender. And he had a nose for rebounding.

“So you could picture him playing in an NBA game. And that’s the feeling in our draft room, is that you can play this guy. I don’t think Steve’s going to have any problem putting him out there.”

Born in North Carolina but spending most of his youth in Louisiana, Evans was projected to go as high as the low 20s but no lower than the mid-30s.

Evans worked his way, lifting and sweating all the while, into the NBA. In his first two years at Cincinnati, he transformed his physique from unexceptional to distinctly chiseled, measuring at 6.5 percent body fat at the NBA combine.

“Not all players reach their potential. Jacob is reaching his because h was wiling to work hard,” Cincinnati associate head coach Larry Davis told The (Baton Rouge) Advocate. “He spent extra time in the weight room and on conditioning to transform his body. When some guys were out doing other things, Jacob was in the gym shooting and doing drills.’

Evans was the clear leader on a Bearcats team that went 31-5, the season ending with a 75-73 loss to Nevada in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. In addition to scoring and assists, he started every game and led the team in minutes.

“He was one of the smartest players I have ever coached,” Bearcats coach Mick Cronin said in a release. “We take great pride in developing our players and Jacob is a great example what can happen for a young man with talent and a great attitude. We are so proud and extremely excited for him to join the world champions.”

Warriors select Cincinnati wing Jacob Evans with No. 28 overall pick in 2018 NBA Draft

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AP

Warriors select Cincinnati wing Jacob Evans with No. 28 overall pick in 2018 NBA Draft

OAKLAND -- The Warriors took their initial step toward an injection of youth Thursday night, selecting Jacob Evans III of Cincinnati in the first round of the NBA draft.

Evans, an American Athletic Conference first-team selection who declared for the draft after his junior season, is considered one of the top defensive players -- of any position -- in the draft.

Yet Evans, who turned 21 this week, managed to lead the Bearcats in scoring at 13.0 points per game.

The North Carolina native, whose mother, Theresa Chatman-Evans, played point guard at Grambling, worked out for the Warriors as recently as Wednesday at the team’s downtown facility.

“He’s a winner,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. “He shoots a high percentage. He’s an elite defender. He blocks shots. He guard point guards. He rebounds.

“He just does so many things, and he’s a coach on the floor. He’s such a smart player.”

Why Dwight Howard (more than just the player) doesn't fit the Warriors anymore

Why Dwight Howard (more than just the player) doesn't fit the Warriors anymore

There are players that come into the NBA on a blast of youthful energy, making an immediate impact, attracting fans, altering franchises and becoming All-Stars.

Dwight Howard was such a player.

Was.

Which is why, with ESPN reporting Thursday that Howard is seeking a buyout from the Brooklyn Nets and expected to become a free agent, after which he would be available to the Warriors.

Some Warriors fans, perhaps visualizing what Howard once was, are rubbing their hands in hope that Howard would accept a veteran’s minimum contract to join the NBA champs. They remember the summer of 2013, when Warriors CEO Joe Lacob spearheaded an attempt to bring Howard to the Bay Area.

Others, paying closer attention and noting Howard’s precipitous decline, are waving their hands in protest.

While there is little question Howard could post better stats than any Warriors center in recent years, there is another factor the team has come to value as much or more that sheer numbers.

The term generally used is “fit.”And Howard, at age 32, doesn’t fit. Not anymore.

An eight-time All-Star at age 28, Howard was the centerpiece of an Orlando squad that made six consecutive playoff appearances, including a trip to the NBA Finals in 2009. The Magic were relevant largely because of its big man.

Howard underwent back surgery in April 2012, which is the last time the Magic appeared in the playoffs. He was traded four months later.

Orlando has not been the same team and Howard has not been the same player. He has slowly and steadily slid completely off the NBA’s star landscape.

He has played for four teams since the Magic. Howard has played for four teams in the last five seasons, three in the last four. He soon will be looking for his fifth employer -- counting his brief stay in Brooklyn -- over a five-year span.

There is a reason for that; Howard has become one of the league’s most polarizing players. The Warriors, once on a naked search for talent -- remember the truncated quest for Kevin Love -- have evolved enough to understand the impact of culture.

They’ve built it, which is why they can absorb JaVale McGee and maximize his talents. It’s why they took a gamble with Nick Young. Both are benign free spirits.

But culture, or chemistry, is precious and precarious. The wide range of opinions related to Howard around the league can’t be dismissed.

The Warriors, even with their commitment to getting younger, will need to add at least one veteran this summer. Making Howard that vet would be their riskiest move yet. They have ascended beyond the need for him.

As a basketball player, Howard’s game no longer lives up to his name.