OAKLAND — Aaron Miles didn’t anticipate getting to know Jacob Evans III well. First-round draft picks, after all, typically don’t dip into the G League.
Last year’s No. 28 overall pick didn’t stick with Golden State long, getting sent down to work with the Santa Cruz Warriors coach.
The move clearly was disappointing, creating a rough landing into basketball’s lower level. Kids don’t dream about receiving a life-changing phone call, posing with an NBA jersey and then being sent away from the team that drafted them. Miles said Evans rebounded well nonetheless.
“When he came down to the G League, it was kind of tough at times,” Miles said Friday. “I could’ve done a better job with him maybe. He came down after the season started, maybe a couple weeks in, so we already had roles defined and our team had a rhythm going. He came down and did a great job fitting in.”
Evans split time between Santa Cruz and the big club, going back and forth while Golden State's brass preached patience. He played 30 NBA games in his first season and 21 more in the G League, working to develop his talent and ignite his career in Year 2, to carve a role with Golden State and never look back.
Evans can make a proper step forward on the Warriors' summer league team, a reunion of sorts with Miles. Golden State coach Steve Kerr gave Miles control of the summer league squad, where Evans will be a featured player working a new position.
The Warriors want Evans playing point guard next week in Sacramento, and in Las Vegas after that, trying to build regular-season depth behind Steph Curry, or with ball handlers who could allow him to play off the ball at times while Golden State weathers an extended stretch without Klay Thompson (assuming, of course, he re-signs, as expected).
The Warriors’ summer league team features several interesting personalities, including Jimmer Fredette and 2019 first-round pick Jordan Poole, and 18-year-old Serbian forward Alen Smailagic, who starred for Santa Cruz last year. But Evans should take center stage during this development period.
“With this summer league action — I talked to [Jacob] a couple days before summer league work began -- I told him that this is kind of his show,” Miles said. “As far as being a returning player, he’s going to be running the point for us. He needs to take on that leadership role and understand that everybody is going to watch him, from the draft picks to the rest of the roster, they’re going to be paying attention to his work ethic and what he brings.
”These first two practices, he has been great. I think he’s excited about that.”
Miles is excited for Evans to take a major leap forward. He spent 21 games with Evans in Santa Cruz and saw growth there. Evans also has developed well while working with former Warriors assistant Willie Green, who just took a job with the Phoenix Suns.
“Willie was working with him a ton during the playoffs,” Miles said. “I wasn’t here during the regular season, but in the playoffs, watching them work on his pull-up game and getting his 3-point shot more consistent. It is translating out here in practices. You can see what he and Willie worked on, and he looks good. He has an ability to get to the basket as well and finish. Willie stressed going 100 percent, and also being explosive and finishing at the rim.
“The kid’s pretty athletic, but he doesn’t show it all the time. He does things where he looks like he’s [6-foot-3], but he’s actually [6-foot-6] or whatever. He’s really athletic. He showed that to us in Santa Cruz.”
Miles believes good summer-league play can build confidence, and proper coaching and reinforcement can help Evans showcase his skills.
Consistency, Miles believes, could lead to a productive NBA career for Evans, with similar characteristics to someone Warriors fans adore.
“I’m not going to say he’s Andre Iguodala, by no means, but he has a great understanding of the game of basketball,” Miles said. “He’s a jack of all trades, a little bit. He does everything well and picks things up quickly.
“He has great size, obviously. He knows how to get us in the offense and get good shots and get the ball where it needs to go. Defensively, his length can be a real problem. I think he’s going to be great at it, and summer league is a great time for us to really see it.”