For a team in need of some good news, the Utah Jazz received some yesterday: rookie point guard Trey Burke made his official NBA debut versus the New Orleans Pelicans. While the highly-anticipated return by Burke from his broken finger is understandably receiving the most attention and accompanying headlines, there was a second boost in morale in the form of Jeremy Evans also being deemed healthy.
All eyes are naturally be focused on Burke, but many ardent Jazz fans are eager to see how Evans performs this season. During the off-season, given the turnover on Utah’s roster (particularly in the front court), it was believed that the high-flying forward might finally have a spot in the regular line-up. Now will be the chance to see if that happens.
All this leads to some big questions. Is Jeremy Evans a bonafide rotational player in the NBA? Can he be more than a situational guy who has the knack for making highlight reel plays?
Evans is a tremendous joy to watch. He is always flashing a smile and it’s clear that he has a love for the game of basketball. He seems to be the consummate locker room presence, always encouraging his teammates and never causing a bit of discord. His sheer athleticism and out-of-this-world leaping ability quickly made him a fan favorite. Earl Watson’s alley was nothing without Jeremy Evans’ oop. While some pundits minimize his Slam Dunk championship due to a somewhat diluted field of competitors, he still won it, fair-and-square. He’s had his fair share of in-game highlights, too. Who can forget this one?
And while it didn’t count, here’s this, as well.
Through his first three seasons, Evans has seen minimal court time. In fact, his playing time has decreased each passing season. All in all, he has registered a mere 895 minutes in 115 games–7.8 MPG. While his playing time has been inconsistent, Evans has managed to produce when his name has been called. He boasts a career 64.7 percent shooting mark for his career, while putting up 2.7 PPG and 1.8 RPG in his stints. There have been games where foul trouble or injuries paved the way for some appearances and he simply injected energy into the game.
He is an advanced stats’ darling. Over his three campaigns, Evans has a True Shooting Percentage of .659 and an Effective Field Goal Percentage of .647. He earns trips to the free throw line, too, as evidenced by his .750 Free Throw Attempt Rate last year. A smart shot-blocker with fine defensive instincts, Evans has a 4.8 Block Percentage, including 8.8 his second season. While some reserves have some sparkling advanced stats, he has produced his consistently over three seasons, which shows his potential to do some good things.
Evans could possibly play both forward positions for spells. Power forward has been where he’s logged the most time thus far in his career. While his slight frame causes issues inside–he can get pushed around and sometimes accrues fouls as a result–his speed and agility partially compensate. For him to play the small forward spot, Evans will have to evolve a bit. In the summer league and preseason, Evans displayed a much-improved jump shot, though his handle is a bit spotty. He will need to show that he can keep defenses honest if he is to assume some time at the three.
The Jazz’s front court depth could lead to Evans seeing an increased role. As expected, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are getting the lion’s share of playing time. Richard Jefferson has had a mini rejuvenation, but has not been consistent. Marvin Williams’ return has helped and he’s seen time as a stretch four. Mike Harris has been a surprise, but is limited. Given this line-up, Evans could demand minutes once he gets more into game-shape and could quickly take the time that Harris has been given. It’ll then be up to him to demonstrate what he is capable of in a more expansive role.
This season has been branded by some as a season of discovery– a chance to see what each player on the roster can do. Every individual on the team has or will assume a new niche in the rotation, and Jeremy Evans is not an exception. Will he become a rotational player? We will find out over the coming months.