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2017-18 Clippers Exit Interview: Jawun Evans

The Clippers found unexpected value in the steady second-rounder.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Los Angeles Clippers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Name: Jawun Evans

Age: 21

Years in NBA: 1

Key Stats: 48 G, 4 GS, 16.2 MPG, 4.8 PTS, 2.1 AST, 35.2% FG, 27.8% 3PT

2017-18 Salary: $815,615

Future Contract Status: One year remaining, $1,378242 guaranteed. 2019 club option for $1,618,520. Restricted Free Agent in 2020.

Summary: The Clippers selected Jawun Evans with the 39th overall pick in the 2017 draft, the first of two second-rounders they purchased. The two-year guard from Oklahoma State profiled as a possible late first-rounder on the strength of his polished midrange game and advanced ability to navigate the pick and roll.

Despite physically looking like Chris Paul — like, a LOT — Evans wasn’t expected to produce much early. Second-rounders usually don’t. But he earned a two-year guaranteed contract and a spot as the third (or fourth, depending on your view of Lou Williams) point guard and a chair at the end of Doc Rivers’ bench. ‘Twas to be a developmental year.

Then Milos Teodosic got hurt. Patrick Beverley too. And with his rotation in tatters, Doc tabbed the rookie for his first appearance on the eve of Halloween, a blowout at the hands of the Warriors. Less than two weeks later, Evans earned 16 minutes and a +20 rating against Oklahoma City. He wouldn’t sit again until January 22.

Evans played 40 minutes in December in Washington, D.C. He played 39 in January against Atlanta. His end-to-end defensive pressure got him onto the floor and his aptitude for calmly steering the offense kept him there. Evans’ emergence as a passable floor general was one of several unexpected happenings that buoyed the Clippers through what should have been an early-winter shambles.

Unfortunately, Evans’ rookie campaign was cut short by an abdominal injury, and he made just ten brief appearances after January. He underwent surgery earlier this month, officially ending his first season.

Strengths: Robert Flom wrote a nice recap here, but I’ll encapsulate Evans’ game thusly: feel and zeal. Evans has overcome his relative lack of size and explosion with a precocious sense of timing. Most young point guards lack a changeup. It’s all turbo button all the time. Evans is comfortable in different gears. Slow here, work the angle, then accelerate. That kind of comfort in the pick and roll game can make a career.

So can his defense. Evans is a goddamn pain in the ass. He’s short but stout. His wingspan is 6’4”. He’s not an Eric Bledsoe-level dynamo but he can hound you for 94 feet. He averaged nearly two steals per 36 minutes. With some work around the edges, Evans can be a backup point for a long time.

Weaknesses: He can’t shoot. 37% on twos, less than 28% on threes. His 42.1% True Shooting Percentage is the stuff of horror films. He was aces from 10-14 feet but abysmal everywhere else. If anything is going to submarine his career, it’ll be this.

Future with Clippers: Evans is young and cheap, and if he improves his shooting to at least C-level, he’ll be more consistently playable. His potential is limited by his lack of stature and compensating athleticism, but there’s little doubt he can play in this league.

Backup point guards aren’t foundational players, so Evans might find that the best path to a 10-year career will take him through multiple cities. Plus, the Clippers are in an admitted state of transition. Evans’ value is tied to his solid play for cheap pay, and he may find himself involved in many of this summer’s trade rumors. Every team needs a player like Evans, and every roster can accommodate his contract. He could make for a nice trade sweetener.

Or, he can make for a dependable bench option for the Clippers, should they find better deals for other players. The young man who looks like Chris Paul may never play like Chris Paul, but he can play for my team any day.