Jacob Evans hopes to seize opportunity in second season with Warriors


Jacob Evans hopes to seize opportunity in second season with Warriors

SAN FRANCISCO – Of the seven players drafted by or for the Warriors between 2012 and 2018, only one has locked down a firm spot in the rotation.

While Kevon Looney has become an integral part of the team’s fabric, five of the others are playing elsewhere, if at all, as Ognjen Kuzmic, Nemanja Nedovic, Damian Jones, Patrick McCaw and Jordan Bell came and went.

Which brings us to the seventh man, Jacob Evans III, who was drafted 15 months ago and played a total of 204 minutes in his rookie season. The 6-foot-5 University of Cincinnati product enters training camp with a high goal set for himself in hoping to become the team’s third guard, replacing Shaun Livingston, who retired after five seasons in that role.

“Yeah, for sure,” Evans said Wednesday. “It’s a new team. I’ve had a year under my belt, so I know the offense pretty well. None of what we’re doing is really new, so I just want to add more to my game. I feel I have an advantage, a good chance of being that third guard.”

That would make him the first guard off the bench, replacing D’Angelo Russell or Stephen Curry. Another candidate is rookie Jordan Poole, whose forte is scoring, whereas it has become apparent that Evans, at this stage of his career, is more natural at point guard.

If Evans can’t crack an eight-man rotation now, when there are no fewer than three vacancies, the team’s player personnel department may have to craft an explanation for its poor record of drafting productive talent for the franchise.

The feeling among the Warriors, however, is that Evans is ready to join Looney as a recent Warriors draft pick who establishes a solid role with the team.

“I think he’s going to emerge this year,” coach Steve Kerr told NBC Sports Bay Area this week. “That’s my belief.”

Evans, 22, certainly looks more self-assured. Often without rhythm and lacking flow – as well as shooting poorly – in brief appearances as a rookie, he made incremental improvement late last season and then looked like a player in command during Summer League games in July.

In informal summer workouts and the first two days of training camp, Evans is starting to flash the potential the Warriors saw when selecting him in the first round, No. 28 overall. He now looks as if he belongs in the NBA.

“Jacob has got a different kind of confidence on the floor right now,” Curry said. “He’s understanding how he can impact the game on both ends of the floor.”

Evans has scoring ability, but that component is no higher than fifth among his assets, behind defensive awareness, passing, court vision and two-way basketball IQ. He brings many of the same qualities, minus the athleticism, the Warriors lost in trading Andre Iguodala – someone Evans studied as a rookie.

“I tried to watch everybody – Andre, Dot (Livingston), Kevin (Durant), Steph, Klay (Thompson),” Evans said. “I can’t mimic the way they shoot, but I can mimic their work ethic. I can learn from their reads. They did different things on the court, and there was something I could learn from all of them.”

Evans took note of the clever ways Curry separates from defenders, the way Thompson uses his body to create space on one end and limit it on the other, the way Iguodala “was always alert and in the right spot” on defense and the way Livingston communicated and found ways to position his teammates on the floor.

Watching wasn’t always easy for someone who started every game as a sophomore and junior before declaring for the draft. Evans didn’t have many opportunities to play and wasn’t very effective when he did. He shot 34 percent from the field, including 26.7 percent beyond the arc. In the G-League, where he received considerably more playing time, those numbers rose to 43.7 percent and 30.5 percent.

It was Evans’ defense and court feel, however, that allowed the Warriors to maintain faith.

“I’m not going to compare him, in terms of accomplishments, to Shaun and Andre,” Kerr said. “He’s not as long. But he’s a basketball player. And he learned by watching those guys.

“With Jacob, it’s much more than, ‘Did he make his shots?’ That’s what everybody seems to look for. But It’s more about his defense, his awareness on the weak side and his playmaking. And I agree that he needs to play more with the ball.”

[RELATED: Key takeaways from Warriors' second training camp practice]

The opportunity Evans wasn’t ready for last season now is available. Can he seize it? Perhaps. He surely needs to, for the sake of the Warriors and their talent evaluators.

NBA Draft 2020: Deni Avdija celebrated Warriors' 2015 title in old photo

NBA Draft 2020: Deni Avdija celebrated Warriors' 2015 title in old photo

If the Warriors select 19-year-old Deni Avdija in the early stages of the 2020 NBA Draft, they'll be picking a player who appears to have been a fan of the franchise for at least a quarter of his life.

The Israeli-Serbian forward has been lighting up the Israeli Basketball Premier League for Maccabi Tel Aviv, averaging 18.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. ESPN's NBA draft guru Mike Schmitz describes Avdija as an "aggressive offensive player who is in attack mode every time he steps onto the floor," who, "loves shooting pull-up 3-pointers in transition."

Hmmm. Sound familiar?

That would seem to mirror the way the Warriors played throughout their (still ongoing?) dynastic run. Given a photo posted to Avdija's Instagram in September of 2016, it would appear he has been a fan of Golden State for some time.

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מה זה בית ספר #🇪🇸

A post shared by Deni Avdija (@deniavdia8) on

That's the Warriors 2015 NBA Champions hat that Avdija is wearing while apparently sailing off the coast of Spain. A good-looking hat for an even better view.

[RELATED: Watch potential Dubs draft target Avdija dominate in Israel]

Just throwing this out there, but I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess he's a pretty big fan of Steph Curry, too.

Maybe, just maybe, they'll be teammates within a few months, and Avdija will have more Warriors apparel than he'll know what to do with.

Shaq gives outrageous breakdown of potential Lakers-Warriors matchup

Shaq gives outrageous breakdown of potential Lakers-Warriors matchup

Shaquille O'Neal won't back down from this debate.

The Hall of Fame center is 100 percent convinced his three-peat Los Angeles Lakers were better than the Steph Curry and Kevin Durant-led Warriors.

Shaq has made it clear over the last two years that he believes the 1999 through 2002 championship Lakers would have easily beaten the 2016 through 2019 Warriors in a hypothetical matchup.

The Diesel even claimed that the Warriors wouldn't have been a contender during the Lakers' dominant run.

But in an interview with Maxim Magazine published Tuesday, Shaq said the Lakers starters would have won every 1-on-1 matchup with the Warriors.

Brace yourselves, Warriors fans.

"I have a hard time believing that the greatest coach of all time (Phil Jackson), plus me and Kobe [Bryant], wouldn’t match up quite nicely against Steve Kerr and his gang," Shaq said. "Kobe takes Steph and dominates him. [Derek] Fisher takes Klay and manhandles him. [Rick] Fox takes Draymond and makes him foul out in the first half. Horace [Grant] would do his thing with K.D. But let’s be real, K.D., is a beast, and you can only do so much with him. And then I’d remind [Zaza] Pachulia why I am in the Hall of Fame and he is not."

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Where do we even begin?

Yes, Kobe was an elite defender, but Curry is a generational talent. He would not have been dominated by Bryant. Steph against a prime Kobe would have been must-see TV, but it wouldn't have been as one-sided as Shaq believes.

If Shaq thinks Klay would be manhandled by anyone, let alone Fisher, he hasn't watched the Warriors shooting guard enough. Thompson has five inches on Fisher and would just shoot right over him.

If Fox tried to bully Draymond, the Warriors forward would pull a Doug Christie and sock him in the jaw. Draymond's motor would give him the edge in that matchup.

Durant would get his against Grant or any other defender the Lakers threw at him. You know who he is. He's Kevin Durant.

The only matchup the Lakers win hands down is Shaq vs. Zaza. Sorry, Zaza.

Shaq's Lakers were able to do something the Warriors weren't able to do: Three-peat. But Golden State very likely would have accomplished the feat if Durant and Thompson had been healthy for the entirety of the 2019 NBA Finals.

[RELATED: Why Curry, Dubs would dominate Lakers]

Yes, Shaq has every right to defend his Lakers teams, but to say they would completely dominate those Warriors teams is a bit far-fetched. Before Durant arrived, the Warriors won 73 games. After he signed, they steamrolled the league on their way to back-to-back NBA titles, and could have three-peated.

This debate will never be settled, but one thing is for sure. Shaq won't let it go.