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Q&A about Jacob Evans with SBN’s Cincinnati blog, Down the Drive

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We asked Phil Neufer of Down the Drive six questions about Cincinnati product Jacob Evans and his pro potential.

NCAA Basketball: Houston at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

As I was searching for background on Jacob Evans, I came across an article from SB Nation’s Cincinnati Bearcats blog Down the Drive entitled, “The Definitive Jacob Evans NBA Draft Profile.

The author, Phil Neuffer, had one of the more interesting comparisons for Evans (Khris Middleton) and predicted on the morning of the draft that the Golden State Warriors would select him with the 28th pick.

So I figured I had to talk to this guy.

I sent along some questions assembled by the GSoM staff and he was gracious enough to take some time to answer them.

Q&A with Phil Neuffer of Down the Drive

GSoM: I know you predicted Evans going to the Warriors in your profile post, but what was your feeling when he actually did go 28th after he was projected to go higher in some mocks?

Phil Neuffer: During the entire NBA Draft process, his name was going all over the place. It was a constant fluctuation. At one point, it seemed like he might go inside the top 20 and in the days right before the draft, he was falling deep into the second round. Where he went fell into the expectations I had (obviously) but it was a bit nerve-racking to think he might slip as the picks in the 20’s started coming off the board.

When he was finally picked, it didn’t feel like he missed out or fell. He got picked by a team that wanted him and has a plan for his development. Its a group he can really fit into. That’s more important than being picked earlier.

GSoM: Some people believe that Evans can be the type of guy who can be a primary ball handler off the bench, which makes sense because he played PG in high school. But how often did he do that at Cincinnati and do you think it’s realistic for him to do that at the NBA level?

PN: He was never really the primary ball-handler at UC, at least in the traditional sense. He wasn’t the guy bringing the ball up the court every possession. Still, he played with the ball in his hands a lot, even if he wasn’t facilitating the offense in the way some might expect. He ranked second on the team in usage percentage this past season and really improved as a passer, which I think will aid him on a team with so many options like the Warriors.

As for his future, I don’t expect him to become a point-forward type player at the next level. I think he can be on a second unit if pressed, but I see him becoming more of an off-the-ball specialist.

GSoM: There has been reporting that the Warriors liked Evans because of his experience in Cincinnati’s switching defense and Coach Cronin, among others, has said that he is able to guard all five positions. How much of that defensive versatility do you see translating to the pro level?

PN: All five positions might be a stretch. His defensive versatility is exceptional, but banging in the post is not in his toolbox. However, he can guard anybody else, whether it’s a point guard or power forward. He has quick hands and has really improved as a shot blocker. The switching he did on defense at UC definitely helped him improve his speed and footwork, so getting past him will be a real challenge. That should help him make up for any size disparities, especially if he is tasked with guarding the four in a smaller lineup.

GSoM: One of the biggest knocks against Jacob Evans offensively (that you sort of allude to you in your definitive profile) is that he sort of disappears/blends into the offense a bit too much -- statistically he has a low usage rate and we’ve already got a wing with a low-NCAA usage who seems passive to the point of invisible sometimes. Although the Warriors don’t necessarily need an explosive offensive player anyway, is there any context that might help us understand why that was happening or how big a problem it was?

PN: I definitely wouldn’t call him a passive offensive player. I think just looking at his numbers may paint him in that light, but that was more a symptom of the team around him and the system he played in. UC teams are generally not built around one scorer and that was especially true this past season. Depth was a real strength of the team, and making sure everybody got touches and chances was critical to success. Evans’ usage may not have been super high, but he was one of the few guys on the team that could make offense by himself if things broke down. I think he still needs to develop and improve in that area, but he isn’t someone that is afraid to take shots or create them.

GSoM: There was some concern that Evans’s jumper looked broken in the Lakers workout video. Is there any hint that he’s been fiddling with his mechanics?

PN: As far as I know — and I don’t really have any insider information about his NBA workouts — his shot hasn’t changed, but he might be trying something new because he slumped down the stretch last season. He only shot .352/.299/.754 during the last 15 games, so any adjustments he’s making may be an attempt to find more consistent mechanics and build his efficiency back up.

GSoM: Evans compared himself to Jimmy Butler, but I see you compared him to Khris Middleton — both seem like apt comparisons. But I also find it interesting that both guys sort of took a year before they really became productive, starter-caliber players and there’s a lot of talk about Evans being ready to step in right away. Do you see him as a guy who can step into a championship roster now or do you imagine him taking a year to find his groove?

PN: I think it depends on what the Warriors are expecting from him. They don’t need a superstar, a starter or even a sixth man type bench guy, but I certainly think he can be a depth piece, especially as a guy that can come in and give you a lot of energy and defensive flexibility while having a nice enough shot to not be a negative on offense. I think it will take a year or two before he starts pushing himself into the everyday starter conversation, but that’s part of the reason the Warriors are such a good fit. He can learn the ropes and still contribute without being asked to play 25-30 minutes per game right away.

For more on Evans, check out our NBA Draft section.