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LA Clippers 2018-2019 Player Previews: Jawun Evans is in a Tricky Spot

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Despite an exciting rookie campaign with some real positives, the Clippers’ second-year point guard might be on the outside of the roster bubble.

Los Angeles Clippers v New York Knicks Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Basic Information:

Age: 22

Years of NBA Experience: 1

Position: Point Guard

Height: 6’0”

Weight: 185 pounds

Key Stats: Averaged 4.8 points, 1.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 0.8 steals in 16.2 minutes per game over 48 games played (4 started). Shot 35.2/27.8/77.6, attempting 1.1 threes and 1.0 free throws per game

Contract Status: Will make a fully guaranteed $1,378,242 this year, with a team option for $1,618,520 next season

Expectations:

It’s very tough to have expectations for Jawun Evans this year, as there’s a real question as to whether he will even be on the roster come the regular season. This would have been a surprising statement just three months ago, but events have conspired against Jawun in an unfortunate way. Between the Clippers selecting two guards in the draft, retaining Milos Teodosic and Avery Bradley, and bringing back Tyrone Wallace, they’ve stockpiled half a roster’s worth of guards who would probably play ahead of Jawun on a team that is trying to win games. The unfortunate truth is that the Clippers have 17 players with NBA contracts, which means two need to be traded or cut—and Jawun is one of the more expendable players on the roster. It’s sad, as it would be interesting to see Jawun develop and play more in his second season.

Jawun had a solid 2017-2018 season, especially considering he was a 2nd round pick who came out of college as a sophomore. He had some very nice moments, including a performance where he pestered MVP James Harden into some dumb offensive fouls which swung the game. Jawun was an exciting presence, even on a Clippers’ team that was a lot of fun to watch for most of the season. He picked up his man the full 94 feet, hustled all over the court, and was a blur attacking in transition. When he got consistent minutes, he also showed flashes of being an old-school style floor general. He knows how to run a pick and roll, and is really quite a gifted passer, capable of finding teammates from all angles. He demonstrated some real chemistry with other players, particularly in December, when he got the bulk of his minutes. Honestly, he was just quite fun to watch.

Unfortunately, Jawun’s raw stats weren’t all that good. He shot just 35.2% from the field and 27.8% from three, both of which are quite poor rates. His small stature means he’s never going to be a great finisher inside, but Jawun often seemed to rush his scoop layups and floaters, which were very effective shots for him in college. Another season of adapting to NBA height and length would probably help with that, but it’s possible that improvement never develops. Some small point guards are able to figure out NBA defenses, others are not. Jawun has the smarts to do so, but there’s no guarantee he does, especially in his second season.

Jawun’s height was also a negative on the defensive end. While he’s a pest there, and is able to do some good work at the point of attack, he’s just too small to bother a lot of players. Again, a year or two more training at the NBA level could help some with the strength aspect, but he’s not going to grow any taller. The NBA is moving towards switchable defenses, a direction that does not benefit Jawun at all. This is especially true on the current Clippers’ roster, which lacks switchability already.

If Jawun is to carve out a roster spot on this crowded Clippers’ team, his best way of doing so would be to demonstrate an improved outside shot. He was a very good three-point shooter in college, albeit on limited attempts, and there’s nothing wrong with his shooting stroke. He also has a soft touch from midrange, and it’s not unreasonable to think he can get up to an average of around 35% from deep at the very least if given the opportunity. This improvement would be massive for Jawun, as it would open up his driving game, which would in turn enable him to use his plus passing and playmaking abilities to a greater extent. Really, if Jawun can become a good three-point shooter, he’s probably a solid backup point guard. If not, he’s probably on his way off the Clippers, if not out of the NBA entirely.

Even if Evans has a strong training camp, the numbers’ game of the roster plays against him. Still, the Clippers can also get more in return by trading one of their veteran point guards (Pat Beverley or Teodosic) than they would by trading (or waiving) Jawun, and if they do so, Jawun would have a lifeline to a roster spot. Jawun’s not out of a job yet— but he needs to impress in camp and hope that the Clippers get a good offer for one of their vets.

Providing that Jawun does make the roster, he’s still unlikely to get many minutes this season. The Clippers possess greater depth at the guard positions this year, and are likely to have at least somewhat better injury luck than last season. He will probably be either watching a lot from the bench, or getting minutes down in Ontario for the Agua Caliente Clippers. However, looking a year ahead, the Clippers have many contracts that will expire next summer. Should Evans remain on the Clippers, he could well be groomed as the backup point guard of the future behind Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. I believe in Jawun Evans’ talent, and think he has a future in the NBA. The question is whether he will get that opportunity with the Clippers, or with another team.