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Warriors rookie not standing out in Vegas, but is fitting in

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The championship busses were being gassed up and the champagne was being readied. Crowds camped out behind barricades to get a chance to see the reigning NBA champions parade down Oakland.

But just down the road, while all the current Warriors were getting ready to celebrate their season, a future Warrior was about to begin his. First-round pick Jacob Evans was actually in town for the parade — only he was there to work out for the Warriors front office.

So when he fell to the 28th pick in the draft, it was almost like fate. It was a moment that still sticks with him:

“I stepped out of the hotel because they passed right by the hotel I was staying at, so I stepped out and just seeing how much joy and excitement that it brought to the city, those things you’ll cherish forever. So just seeing that atmosphere, I was thinking how could I not want to be there? So I’m just excited to join a great situation.”

Evans’ Summer League career hasn’t quite felt as ordained as his draft position though, as he’s struggled from the outset.

His most reliable offensive skill — his 3-point shot — has eluded him in his first five games. He’s shooting 2-of-18 from deep in both Sacramento and Las Vegas Summer Leagues, and in the heat of the Vegas sun he’s at a frosty eight percent from 3.

Summer League head coach Willie Green said that it hasn’t been a true representation of what he can do:

“He’s been battling a little injury with his ribs so I think it’s still nagging him a little bit. We’re not worried about him shooting if he’s open we want him to shoot it. I don’t think it’s something were concerned with.”

Everyone seems convinced Evans’ shot will come around. Especially since he shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc his last two seasons at Cincinnati.

But the adjustment from the college 3-point line to the NBA is always a tough one, and you can see it as almost all of Evans’ shots have come up short off the front of the rim. But that adjustment will come with time.

Plus, the Warriors didn’t target him just for his shooting ability; he’s a natural fit in their wing rotation with his defensive versatility and solid if unspectacular all-around game, which he’s shown this summer.

Evans said he thinks of himself as a defensive first player:

“The defensive end is all about being tough, heart and being smart. I feel like I have pretty good instincts on the defensive end playing at Cincinnati, that’s kind of what we prided ourselves on. The Warriors get a lot of praise for their offense but their defense is really good. The coaches preach to us that we are going to play off of our defense. So I feel like it fits my repertoire.”

In his five Summer League games, the rookie putting up 5.8 points and 2.8 rebounds. While his pedestrian stats won’t give anyone visions of grandeur, all the Warriors need out of their first-rounder is the ability to make solid, routine decisions, while not getting picked on defensively.

And while it may seem like an insult to call Evans boring, that’s exactly what the Warriors need.

Boring doesn’t lose games.

Green has been glowing in his praise for Evans during his time in Vegas:

“I like him, smart kid, good defender, good instincts, attacks the basket on offense. His shot will come, he’ll make shots, it just takes time to get used to the speed of the game but other than that I like what he’s doing.”

He doesn’t have the standout athleticism or off the charts measurements of some prospects, but he makes up for that in technique and effort.

He hasn’t dunked a single time in a game during Summer League, but he has picked up two blocks in three games in Vegas. And any time there is been a loose ball it’s a good bet Evans either indirectly caused it or is in the vicinity of it to pick it up.

That’s the type of player he is: he makes winning plays while taking nothing off the table — and that’s a tangible skill.

Before the draft, the Warriors said that they envisioned their 28th pick would step in and immediately be a rotational piece for them. Well Evans unselfish, steady game is tailor-made for that. He is content with shooting just eight times a game, in an environment where guys are jacking up shots to get noticed.

It doesn’t do much to help him standout in Summer League, but he doesn’t need to, he just needs to blend in with the regular roster. That is part of the reason Jordan Bell’s been so enamored with his new teammate:

“I love Jacob, he’s a great player, very feisty, has that dog in him. He does a little bit of everything rebounding, scoring, he can do it all. He’s just a tough guy.”

And he is fitting in seamlessly. He’s just following the lead of his teammates, with Bell taking even fewer shots than Evans.

It’s that Warriors unselfish mindset. One that could lead to another parade down the streets of Oakland — this time with Evans in tow.


Curtis Uemura is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @CUemura on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Warriors basketball.

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