Has the Door Closed on Jeremy Evans in Utah?

May 5th, 2015 | by David J Smith
Has high-flying Jeremy Evans played his last game in Utah?  (Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

Has high-flying Jeremy Evans played his last game in Utah?
(Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

 

For five seasons, the high-flying, beyond athletic Evans has called Utah his home. He has spent his entire NBA career in a Jazz uniform. Thanks to his acrobatic plays, astounding alley oops, constant all-out hustle and infectious smile, Evans has long been a fan favorite among the team’s faithful followers. His Slam Dunk Contest win added to that. Every summer, he is among the Jazz players who comprise the Junior Jazz tour and at this season’s locker room clean-out, Evans said he is ready for another tour of duty. A talented artist, he has even displayed his paintings in different venues throughout Salt Lake City. There is so much to like about Jeremy Evans.

As the 55th pick in 2010 Draft, Evans defied the odds. Despite his slender build, he not only made Utah’s regular season roster, but he was able to see some time as a rookie. Along with Gordon Hayward, Evans is one of the last remaining Jazzmen to have played for Jerry Sloan. With the Jazz’s cadre of talented big men in Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, Evans saw very limited playing time the following two seasons — a total of just 432 minutes. Even so, Evans kept his head up and kept working hard. Whenever he was called upon, he came in and did his best.

When Jefferson and Millsap went to Charlotte and Atlanta, respectively, Evans finally got his chance. He became a regular during the 2013-2014 and was consistently solid, averaging 6.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG and 0.7 BPG in 18.3 MPG, while showing a greatly improved mid-range game1 Evans had numbers that season that exceeded his first three season totals’ in almost every statistical category. With a 16.2 PER and 2.8 Win Shares, Evans was actually one of the most productive players on the roster. Things were looking bright for the affable Evans.

Things can change quickly.

First, the Jazz acquired two front court players in Trevor Booker and Steve Novak. Booker had more experience, toiling as a starter for a playoff team in the Washington Wizards. Novak was strictly situational, but with his shooting, was able to get some nods ahead of Evans.  Second, and more influentially, Utah benefited from a great deal of internal improvement. Favors, Kanter and Rudy Gobert all became more capable players, with Gobert exceeding everyone’s expectations in a major, major way. Evans suddenly found himself in a familiar place, as the odd man out. With head coach Quin Snyder’s emphasis on having shooters — evidenced by Kanter and Booker’s increase in 3-point attempts — Evans, who has not developed that aspect of his game, spent most of his time on the pine.

After Kanter and Novak were sent to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Evans enjoyed an uptick in opportunity and playing time. He was quite good in April, bringing 6.0 PPG and 2.9 RPG to the table in 12 MPG. He shot the ball well and made the most of the offensive chances he was given. Evans maintained a positive attitude throughout the season, like he always has. The consummate professional, he responded whenever Snyder needed him.

Where do things stand going forward? Given the way they finished the campaign, Favors and Gobert look to build on the momentum they experienced individually and as a defensive duo. Both have the potential to challenge for All-Star roster spots, which is enormous for the franchise. Booker’s hustle, attitude and leadership are valued greatly by both the coaching staff and his teammates. The Jazz have a $4.75 million team option for him this upcoming year. Chances are, the Jazz will look to secure a stretch four this off-season, be it via the draft, trade or free agency. If Evans is retained, he most likely will be an end-of-the-bench player again.

As a result, most feel that Evans will be moving on. Given the tenor of some of his tweets as the season concluded, Evans seems to feel similarly. In some ways, it was as if he was bidding farewell to the Jazz community.

Evans will be in the NBA next season. He has shown enough to warrant attention, especially from an advanced stats perspective. In four of his seasons, Evans has sported an 18.8 or better PER, including this year’s 20.5 mark. He has shown a propensity to contribute on the boards. While his wiry frame can cause some unfair battles in the paint, Evans uses his agility and timing to compensate some. He is a good weak-side shot-blocker. Evans does have his deficiencies: consistent shooting and ball handling ability when playing small forward. The pluses, though, exceed his minuses, especially as a reserve. Evans could be a nice role player at a minimal cost. He would represent a very low risk, potential solid reward acquisition on the court, and off the court, he is a high character guy. It is apparent that Evans loves playing basketball, which is a refreshing thing to see.

The door may not be ajar much, but it has not completely closed on Evans’ time in Utah. The odds are certainly not high, but there is still a chance he could be brought back as insurance. With his constantly positive attitude and his ability to do some nice things on the floor, he may end up an appealing option as the Jazz fill out their roster. There is something to be said for longevity and familiarity, not to mention his friendship with his teammates, including Hayward. Like many of the players who finished the season with Utah, for Evans, a lot depends on what other moves Dennis Lindsey makes to bolster and improve the roster.

Whatever the case may be, it will be extremely easy to root for Jeremy Evans. Whether he remains a Jazzman or if he ends up on another team, Evans exudes class.

David J Smith

David J Smith

Besides writing for Salt City Hoops, David contributes to the Utah Jazz coverage for the Deseret News and has written for the Utah Jazz website and Hoopsworld.com (now Basketball Insiders). He graduated from BYU and works for LDS Philanthropies. He and his incredibly patient wife have five amazing children--four girls and a boy named Stockton (yes, really).
David J Smith
David J Smith

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11 Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    I can totally understand if they don’t bring him back, just because the roster has a limit and there’s a salary cap and all, but he’s the guy that I’ll be saddest to see go if he doesn’t return. And that’s saying something, considering the only guys I wouldn’t be sad to see go are Chris Johnson, Jack Cooley and Grant Jerrett.

  2. Derek says:

    I will be sad as well. But I look at it as he will hopefully be able to shine somewhere he can actually get some playing time. All the dude did was play good when he was in.

    • David says:

      You make a good point. A team like PHI would make a lot of sense. He would get ample PT and could show what he can do.

  3. Matt says:

    Evans has always been productive when he played. I don’t know why a 15-man roster can’t include Jeremy Evans.

  4. Becca says:

    Jeremy is so fun to watch. He brings more energy and excitement to the court than any other bench player the Jazz currently have. You have to have someone at the end of your bench, why can’t it be Jeremy?

    During the season, I wondered if he was on Q’s naughty list or something…he should have been able to get a little more playing time. At the same time, I wondered if Quinn new what he had in Jeremy, and so he didn’t have to audition to keep his spot.

    • David says:

      Some others mentioned similar things. While injuries and trades certainly played a factor, it seemed Coach Snyder had more trust in him as the season finished up. I remember several occasions where he lauded Evans in postgame interviews. We’ll see what happens. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Becca!

  5. robin says:

    Loved watching Evans play, and always wanted to see him play more. While Booker showed hustle, he was a very inefficient offensive player and a very average, but spectacular, rebounder. On a per minute basis Evans was so much more productive on both ends of the court. All the best for the future to Jeremy.

    • David says:

      Agree with all your points. Booker did improve with his efficiency as the season finished up. Like I mention in this post, who knows…perhaps Evans does find a way back on the Jazz roster.

  6. LKA says:

    Letting him go would be like taking your dog to the pound. I don’t think Cooley and the other rookies have any more promise. Sign him for two more years for the same money. I think the biggest thing he could improve upon would be to develope a mean streak. Booker could teach him.

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