No. 1 pick
"You hate to compare players like this," said Trail Blazers coach
A long list there, and yet it doesn't fully cover Evans' promise. With averages of 20.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.0 assists, he has joined
Evans wasn't viewed by everyone as a sure thing when he entered the draft after one year at Memphis. His hometown Grizzlies passed on him in order to pick center
Though he grew up playing point guard, Evans admitted he was given the ball mainly so he could score. "I wasn't really a natural point," he said. "I was more like a point guard/two guard, I could bring the ball up. Now I know how to run a team better, create passes, things like that."
Did he envision averaging more points and assists than the 17.1 and 3.9 he managed last year? "I didn't have any idea," he said. "I was excited I got drafted, and I knew I wasn't going to stop working hard. As the year went along, as I went into training camp, I was thinking I can be pretty good."
In many ways he has mirrored the fast start of Jennings in Milwaukee, though the latter received more notice after breaking out for 55 points in the opening month against the Warriors. Both have overcome the loss of their team's leading scorer (with
But when they meet Saturday in Milwaukee, the difference between the two rookie point guards will become obvious. While 6-1 Jennings creates space with his quickness, 6-6 Evans has more than enough explosion to go with size and strength that dwarfs most point guards -- young or old. His 6-feet, 11 ¼-inch wingspan is as long as Griffin's and an inch shorter than LeBron James': Having turned 20 in September, 220-pound Evans looks very much like the LeBron of point guards in his ability to dominate rivals, physically and athletically. "He can play 1, 2 or 3," said McMillan. "And when they have some of their guys back, we may even see him play some 4 because he has a big body."
"He's a walking mismatch,'' said Kings coach
Evans appreciates the impact he makes. "I'm going to the basket and making contact with them every chance I get," he said. "I was playing [Timberwolves 6-foot rookie]
Evans has been working with assistant
Petrie doesn't compare Evans to LeBron so much as to
Evans had heard the LeBron comparisons, but not a running back, though he's quickly warming to the idea. "When I push the ball coming full speed, what's a guy supposed to do? I'm running full speed at my size, and every hole I see I try to get there fast," he said. "You can't drive to the basket slow thinking you're going to make it."
Evans isn't athletic in the typical vertical-leap sense. He doesn't sky above opponents as much he blasts through them. He'll fake left and, before they can regain balance, he's bursting right with his long arm extended away and the ball kissing softly off the glass regardless of how awkwardly Evans might be falling. He is a tremendous finisher in traffic, capable of focusing on the shot regardless of contact.
His innate mastery of tempo, as well as his refusal to show off athletically, reminds Roy of himself. "He plays to win," said Roy. "He isn't going to score in the 40s and 50s, but you can tell he scores those meaningful points, he makes those meaningful passes and he just plays within himself. I see similarities, especially with his poise and the way he takes his time and makes his plays out there on the court."
Defensively, Evans may already be one of the best at his position, in no small part because he grew up playing against older talent. In seventh grade, he was the starting point guard for the varsity at American Christian high school team in suburban Philadelphia. "I was always bigger than people my age," he said. "When I was [playing] in my age group, people would say, 'He isn't how old he says he is -- he's older.' But I didn't pay that any mind. I would just go out there and play ball. And when I played with older guys, I struggled for a couple of days, but then when I got the hang of playing with them I got better and better."
He grew used to being pushed around and learning to push back. As the seventh-grade point guard on the high school team, he recalls, "There was a guy on my team, a senior point guard way stronger than me. He would try to be physical with me and push me in the post. That's when I realized I had to get in the weight room. So I got a trainer, I got bigger."
A personal trainer in seventh grade?
"I knew I needed to lift weights, and I didn't know what I was doing so I had to get a trainer,"' he said. "I wanted to be better than everybody I was playing against. I wanted to be the best."
The investment is paying off.