Wesley Matthews, Deron Williams, ZaZa Pachulia, even JaVale McGee. All of those free agent moves made by Dallas this summer received greater acclaim than the Mavs signing Jeremy Evans. An unheralded move, the under the radar acquisition of Evans could turn out to be the biggest addition to the Dallas Mavericks in 2015-16.
After five underwhelming seasons in Utah, Evans may have a found a team in Dallas that desperately needs and knows how to utilize the specific tools he brings to the table. His skill set closely resembles the roles held by two of the most important bench players last season for Dallas, Brandan Wright and Al-Farouq Aminu.
The 2012 NBA Slam Dunk Champion, Evans displays freakish athletic ability. His high flying dunks can electrify the crowd and energize the team, much like Wright did for Dallas. After the Mavericks shipped off Wright to Boston as part of the Rajon Rondo trade, their offense was missing the energy boost the power forward brought to the game.
The Mavericks believe Evans is capable of replacing Wright and that believe is not just in the front office. Guard Devin Harris, who played alongside Evans in Utah for one and a half seasons, agrees. “[Wright] was my go-to. He was like my bail-out guy and a guy I could always find on the court. We struggled a little bit with (not having Wright), but I think we have something similar with Jeremy.”
On top of replacing Wright’s skill set, Dallas just needs bodies up front as well. The club is determined to limit Dirk Nowitzki’s minutes to 26 per game this season, leaving plenty of time available at the four. An inexperienced Dwight Powell and defensive liability Charlie Villanueva are his primary competition, meaning, if Evans plays the way he is capable of, he should not have a hard time assuming the primary reserve power forward position.
Dallas is also looking to replace the versatility of the now Portland Trailblazer Aminu. Last season, Aminu was able to eat up minutes at small forward, power forward, and even center last season while posting a team-best 102 defensive rating. Standing the same height at 6’9″ and with similar builds, Evans has the ideal size and length to replicate what Aminu did for Dallas. Just like with Aminu, Coach Carlisle believes Evans is capable of playing three positions, including small forward, even though he has had limited exposure to them throughout his career.
“We’re expanding what’s being asked of him. In Utah, he was playing mostly backup four, and he’d play occasionally five when they went small. But it was not very often…And we’re having him learn three positions, so it’s a great opportunity for him. But it is a lot of work.”
The Mavericks are going to rely heavily on their depth and versatility this season, of which Evans will play a big part. If Chandler Parsons were to miss any time due to his offseason knee surgery, Evans could immediately find himself thrust into significant minutes at the three spot.
With Utah, Evans played less than 300 total minutes on the wing in five seasons, with over half of the action coming during his rookie season. Defensively, Evans’ athletic ability can help make up for the lack of experience guarding the wing, but his shot-making will be a work in progress when the season starts.
Since signing with Dallas, Evans has been hard at work expanding his shooting range. To fit in with Dallas’ spread-the-floor offense, he knows he needs to pick up a three-point shot. Coming into this season, the former Hilltopper has attempted only 10 shots from beyond the arc in hs career—a number he will easily shatter, if the preseason is any indication. Through two games, Evans has already taken four three-pointers in a Mavericks uniform.
While being able to shoot from deep would be a nice bonus, Dallas brought Evans in for his defense and rebounding.
After losing out on DeAndre Jordan and replacing Tyson Chandler with a mishmash of ZaZa Pachulia, Samuel Dalembert, and Javale McGee, Dallas may have no other option but to play more small ball. When they tend to go that way, Parsons can fill the four and Evans could man the five. Dallas did just that last season with Aminu, as he played at center in 7 percent of his plays last season.
Even though he has little experience at the five in the NBA, Evans could hold his own there if need be. His career average of 8.9 rebounds per 36 minutes and his career rebounding rate of 14.4 percent would have ranked him second, behind Chandler, on Dallas’ squad last season.
Evans defensive prowess in college was a big key in Utah taking a chance on Evans in the second-round of the 2010 NBA Draft. HIs senior year at Western Kentucky, he posted a 96 Defensive Rating, while grabbing 10.7 rebounds and blocking 2.7 shots per 40 minutes.
Despite all the promise and upside, Evans spent nearly all of his time on the bench in Utah. Exclude the 2013-14 season and Evans has averaged only 7.6 minutes per game. He played a stint in the D-league. He never was able to establish himself in the Jazz rotation, earning countless DNP -CD (Did Not Play – Coaches’ Decision).
Besides being a fan favorite due to his high-energy dunks, Evans was loved in the Utah locker room. He was a consummate professional, working tirelessly in practice even when he knew it wold not translate into much playing time.
While he has the tools to become an elite defender, Evans will need to continue to put in the hours to improve his mid-range and three-point shot. If he can add a solid jumper to go along with his dunking ability, coach Carlisle may find himself using the forward as one of the first options off the bench.