When the Golden State Warriors selected Jacob Evans III with the 28th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the message was clear. General Manager Bob Myers was hoping to find a player who could contribute to the team immediately, and help them win the 2019 title, in addition to playing a long-term role.
There was a clear precedent. Jordan Bell averaged 14.2 minutes per game as a rookie in 2017-18, and chipped in 10.2 minutes per game in the postseason. The year before, rookie Patrick McCaw averaged 15.1 minutes a night and 12.1 minutes in the playoffs.
Nevermind that those player’s trajectories have changed course quite a bit. The Warriors got instant contributions, and when they drafted Evans - who was 6’6”, defensively-inclined, and had played three years of college ball - they were hoping for the same.
It didn’t happen. Evans has struggled to find the court, appearing in just 23 games and playing a total of 99 minutes so far, most of which have been in garbage time. He’s looked lost when he did get in games. He’s spent much of the season in G League, and barring something truly insane happening, will play no role in the playoffs this year.
As such, it’s been easy to put blame on Myers, and perhaps Steve Kerr, for whiffing on Evans. But that would be a bit short-sighted.
The reality with picks late in the draft is that they rarely ever pan out. Warriors fans are perhaps a little spoiled, not only by the rookie contributions of Bell and McCaw, but by former second-round pick Draymond Green, and 30th overall selection Kevon Looney (who, you might remember, did very little as a rookie).
But take a look at the next 15 players selected after Evans, and tell me what you see:
29. Dzanan Musa
30. Omari Spellman
31. Elie Okobo
32. Jevon Carter
33. Jalen Brunson
34. Devonte’ Graham
35. Melvin Frazier
36. Mitchell Robinson
37. Gary Trent Jr.
38. Khyri Thomas
39. Isaac Bonga
40. Rodions Kurucs
41. Jarred Vanderbildt
42. Bruce Brown Jr.
43. Justin Jackson
There’s . . . not a lot to see there. Sure, some of those players have performed notably better than Evans. Kurucs has had a very pleasant year, and Brown is playing a lot. Brunson and Robinson have shown very nice potential, and Okobo and Spellman have, at times, gotten nice minutes.
But Kurucs is the only one of those noted players who is on a winning team, and that team (the Brooklyn Nets) is barely floating above .500. The deep draft players who have received minutes have done so primarily based on their poor teams having the opportunity to give minutes to youngsters, and letting them develop on the fly - as Evans is doing in Santa Cruz. And sometimes because their teams are simply lacking talent in front of the rookies.
Are there players drafted after Evans that you would rather have on the Warriors? Surely.
Are there players drafted after Evans that Myers and Kerr would rather have on the Warriors? Also surely.
Are there players drafted after Evans that would be playing 15 minutes a night on the Warriors and earning Kerr’s trust for the postseason. Ehhhh. Maybe? Maybe not. Certainly no difference makers.
In a few years we may look back on the 2018 draft and realize that Myers swung and missed big time. But just because he couldn’t find an NBA-ready contributor at that spot in the draft doesn’t mean he missed - it only means he attempted something nearly impossible.