Jeremy Evans is a delight to watch. Not because he’s a fundamentally sound robot like Tim Duncan. Nor is he’s an ankle-breaking wizard like Chris Paul. Right now the second-year forward for the Utah Jazz may be low on both the skill and depth charts, but he has the athleticism that stands out even among other professional athletes.
He’s not even like other dunkers – a guy like Blake Griffin can play 40 minutes and dunk twice. Yes, Blake is more than just a dunker; but at this stage of his career, Jeremy Evans is a pure finisher around the basket.
For years now, less athletic players have been making long careers being pure shooters – coaches found ways to keep them on the floor so they could receive opportunistic kick-out passes from double-teamed stars, and summarily drain open shots. Despite being a slow, white guy, Steve Kerr won a billion rings because he was a pure shooter. I think the case should be made to de-stigmatize the players who are less polished overall, but still have the physical gifts to make positive impacts on the court. With Jeremy “Elevator Action” Evans, we have the quantitative evidence to empirically advocate for the pure finisher.
Evans isn’t the first player of this archetype (or character class for you kids out there); nor will he be the last. What he is, though, is one of the most efficient players in the game at finishing. Within moments of stepping on the floor, Evans will lock eyes with a teammate, lull the disinterested defense into thinking a guy under 200 pounds is going to set a screen, and cut back for an alley-oop. When it happens once, it is a good play. If it happens twice, it’s a smart gamble. Now in his second season in the Digital Age era of the NBA, over 90 percent of the lobs Evans gets are from this exact same play. I’m not making that number up, thanks to SynergySports, Hoopdata.com and Basketball-Reference.com, you can do a very thorough scouting job on a player – even as a casual fan. Evans is a pure finisher, and the numbers prove it. Allow me to briefly state some facts (as of Jan. 21):
– Jeremy Evans is shooting 86-of-127 from the floor (67.7%)
– 75 of his total career 86 field goals made are either dunks or layups (87.2%)
– 61 are just dunks (70.9%)
– 32 of his 61 dunks are alley-oops (52.5%)
– He’s missed only three dunk attempts in his entire NBA career
– He has 61 dunks in barely 500 minutes at the NBA level (516 mins)
– At that rate, if he played Blake Griffin’s minutes, he’d have 425 dunks
– It’s pretty clear that Blake does not have 425 dunks in his NBA career
Jeremy’s carving out a niche for himself by being hyper efficient (career value of 1.57 points per shot), and finishing near the basket. He’s not the guy who has a ton of one-on-one moves; but again, it’s not like Kerr got himself all those open looks by showing off his Rucker Park handles. Kerr moved to a spot where he could score from, and waited for a guy to pass him the ball. What Evans is doing as a pure finisher is no different. Not everyone can spend time on his game in the summer to hone a skill like Kerr did, shooting jumper after jumper. Similarly, not everyone can jump over their own car, like Evans did just to see if he could. Blake jumped a car first, but his was a small Korean compact. Evans jumped over an American muscle car.
It’s no surprise that I think Evans should be in the dunk contest this year. He has the credentials, the athletic ability, the inhuman hang time (see: him destroying Gerald Wallace), and the Jazz are winning games.
Utah has been represented in the contest a few times before: Darrell “Dr. Dunkenstein” Griffith (1984, 1985), Blue Edwards (1991), David Benoit (1993); Jamie Watson (1995); and DeShawn Stevenson (2002). It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Evans is the best athlete out of that entire bunch; he has an illegal vertical jump. I’d tell you what it is, but not even DraftExpress.com has it. It’s a classified government secret, kind of like Evans himself.
In this digital age where videos are uploaded within seconds of them happening, and where every game is available to watch all over the world, teams still don’t seem to be scouting Evans. As a Jazz fan, I kinda want other teams to keep sleeping on him; but as a basketball fan, I want him to get the dunk contest exposure. Let the secret out! Let Jeremy jam!
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