Another edition of Prospect Breakdown is here, this time breaking down Cincinnati wing Jacob Evans. At 6’5.5” with a 6’9.25” wingspan, Evans projects to be a prototypical 3&D player on the wing, an archetype the Sixers are desperate for. While his upside may not be through the roof, he has a great chance of becoming a very valuable role player. But if he is available when the Sixers are on the clock with the 26th pick, should he be the choice?
The most important quality Evans can provide the Sixers with on the offensive end is his shooting. Having made 39.5 percent of his three-point attempts in his last two years at Cincinnati, it is hard not to see him becoming a very good shooter at the next level, given the combination of his college production and clean form. But, he’s not a catch-and-shooter alone. He has displayed in college that he is capable of getting to the rim and finishing once he gets there. According to thestepien.com, Evans shot 45-112 (40.1 percent) on NBA threes in his junior season, while also going 51-77 (66.2 percent) at the rim, displaying impressive offensive versatility that the Sixers really could have used this past season. He also averaged over three assists per game last season, and did not turn the ball over very much, only averaging 1.8 turnovers per game, an impressive number considering that he took the most shots per game for the Bearcats. While he will never be the focal point of an NBA offense the way he was in college, it seems more likely than not that he becomes a high-level shooter who can occasionally take his man off the dribble, get to the rim and finish.
While every NBA team will value his shooting from deep, Evans’ defense is what makes him a surefire first-round prospect. The 20-year old is not just another player who comes out of college with intriguing physical tools and is labeled as someone with “defensive upside”- he has actually produced at a very high level on the defensive end. Among guards and wings entering the 2018 Draft, Evans led the pack in Defensive Win Shares and Defensive Rating, while also finishing second in Defensive Box Plus-Minus, trailing only Texas Tech’s Zhaire Smith. Given his size, length and speed, he should be able to cover almost any wing he faces. While blocks and steals never tell the entire story, the fact that he averaged 1.3 steals and one block per game as a junior is further evidence of his promise on defense.
The fit for Evans on this Sixers roster is clear. He slots right in as a backup wing who can come in, defend, and knock down open looks. While he is not ready to constantly run around screens like JJ Redick and Marco Belinelli did all season long, he will provide floor spacing to a lesser extent. Essentially, he can be a poor man’s Robert Covington, who would help the Sixers finally develop some much-needed depth on the wing. His two-way presence can help fix a second unit that disappointed way too often, usually faltering due to their lack of perimeter defenders and shooters. Most importantly, he fits in seamlessly with the Sixers’ trio of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz- he won’t take away any shots from the stars, and will help them out with his catch-and-shooting as well as his defensive versatility. He can have a positive impact on the game on both ends of the floor, regardless of who he is playing with.
Evans would be a reach with the tenth pick given his relatively low upside, but if he were to become available at #26, the Sixers can not afford to pass up the opportunity to pick him. His two-way skills on the wing are too valuable to ignore if he is available that late in the first round. Evans may not be a must-have at #26 if the Sixers use the tenth pick on a wing like Mikal Bridges, but if the Sixers go with a shot creator first, they will still have a massive hole on the wing that Evans can help fill. It seems rather unlikely that he falls that far, but it’s feasible. If he does, Bryan Colangelo needs to pounce.