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Kwame Evans Jr.: Potential is a Scary Word
Garbage Time Ghim is back from summer vacation and he made sure to do his summer reading. Tap into his first piece of the season and see why he thinks Kwame Evans Jr. could become the next Lamar Odom.
Not only does it feel like I’ve forgotten how to use a keyboard, but I don’t think I’ve even begun to organize my thoughts and feelings about this 2024 draft class. But before we get into all the madness, I just want to say it feels great to be back. It’s been an eventful summer for us at No Ceilings, with many exciting things happening. We are so excited about all the new additions to the team but also unfortunate to see the legend Nathan Grubel go. Nathan was a pillar of our team and did so much behind the scenes that people will never know. We wish you the best in whatever you do next, brother!
With the time off from writing, I’ve enjoyed just thinking and re-evaluating myself as a scout. One of the main things I dwelled on this summer is not to get too locked in on a guy one way or the other too early in the process. With it still being October and the college basketball season a couple of weeks away, the worst thing I could do now is pretend to be completely locked in on anyone. As I was working on myself, becoming a better scout, and enjoying some beautiful time off, I’m sure all the players have also been working and growing. I say all this to remind myself and the reader that we don’t know much right now, and anyone who claims to be “tapped in” and an expert on anyone might sound dumb in a couple of months.
At this stage in the process, I want to be open. I want to be curious about a wide range of players and be excited about the many different possibilities.
This all leads to Kwame Evans Jr. of the University of Oregon. Kwame is a 6’9” wing who’ll start his freshman season soon for the Oregon Ducks. Kwame was a five-star recruit coming out of Montverde Academy, according to 247 Sports and ESPN, and he can be found on most pre-season draft boards.
From my initial film dive, I entertained the idea that he might be one of my favorite guys in the 2024 draft class. Then I did a second deep dive and walked away, wondering about that. Then I went in again to find some balance, and now I’m just excited to see him play for Oregon and see how all of this pans out.
The first thing we must mention about Kwame is that he is an uber-talented prospect with much potential. Potential is the key word here with Kwame because potential continues to be the most dangerous and terrifying term in our space. Whenever we watch players, we look for potential, commit ourselves to potential, build takes on potential, and sometimes go all-in on potential. Anyone can have the potential to be great, but unless you’re putting in the work to make the most of that potential, it all means nothing. We throw around the word so quickly in hopes that players become who we think they can be, but the result always hinges on hard work. Hard work and dedication are what Kwame is going to have to live and breathe for him to become the player I think he can be.
I won’t beat around the bush. I genuinely believe that if Kwame Evans Jr. maxes out his potential, he could be a Lamar Odom type of player. When it comes to his size, ball skills, and shooting potential, there are so many things to like and be excited about when you get into his game. The next step for Kwame will be fine-tuning, the hard work of going from decent or good at certain things to mastering them. The next step in his development is trying many things in games, making mistakes, and getting in the lab afterward to grow from them.
Rather than a complete breakdown of Kwame’s game, I just wanted to highlight some good and not-so-good aspects of his game and try to project what it’ll look like on the collegiate level.
One of my best friends, Josh, who you may know from when he wrote about Draft Fits after the 2022 NBA draft, is an interesting eater. I wouldn’t characterize him as a picky eater; he just hates cheese. He hates the smell of it and overall has a bad relationship with it. He can eat pizza, and mozzarella is usually fine for him, but almost any other type of cheese is an absolute no-go for him. Our group of friends is always hanging out at his place where he lives with our other buddy Dave, and one time, a friend brought over a variety box of chips to their house for a party. During the party, no one ate any of the chips, and the box was just left over for the two roommates to demolish. Our buddy Dave isn’t much of a snacker, so he didn’t even look at the box of chips. But over time, I guess Josh took it upon himself to bear the burden of emptying the box. One night, we were all together, and one of our friends grabbed a bag of chips from the box and found that the whole box was filled with cheese-flavored chips like the Nacho Cheese Doritos and Cheetos. When we confronted Josh about it, he feigned ignorance, and we all laughed in his face for lying.
Kwame Evans’s offensive game is a lot like that variety box of chips. For most people diving into his game, you’re going to find some things that you like about his game, and you’re going to find some things that may not be for you. Josh doesn’t like Cheetos; you may not like Kwame’s handle. Josh hates Nacho Cheese Doritos; someone may hate Kwame’s jumper and the slight elbow flare.
If you watch the compilation of clips below, you’ll find that Kwame is an entertaining wing prospect with excellent size for his position, good ball-handling ability for his size, and a developing outside jump shot. The umbrella that hangs over all of this is that with all the beautiful things he is capable of, there is a bit of clunkiness to his game. It’s important to note that his clunkiness isn’t always bad. If you look to a Kyle Anderson or Andre Miller from back in the day, there is a way to weaponize clunkiness or funkiness to your advantage. At this point in his development, the clunkiness of his game is still a bit of a disadvantage rather than an advantage. But before we get into that, I want to highlight that he does many things that guys his size don’t normally do.
The part of his game that was the Cool Ranch Doritos (my favorite in the Lay’s variety box) for me was his ability to push the ball in transition and do fun stuff with the ball. As I mentioned earlier, Kwame does have a good handle, and he shows it off most when he grabs a rebound and pushes the ball up the floor. During his time at Montverde, he was able to play next to guys like Cooper Flagg and Sean Stewart. Both guys were awesome play finishers in high school and were often good running mates with Kwame in transition.
Although Kwame is listed as 6’9”, I think he may be 6’10” in shoes, and more importantly, he looks much taller because he has a short torso and long legs. The long legs make him look stretched out, which is an advantage to him. Being as tall as he is pushing the ball up the floor and finding his teammates or finishing with either hand is a fun wrinkle to his game. He has shown the ability to handle the ball in space, but I feel he needs to tighten things up when handling the ball in the half-court. Although he is a capable ball-handler, he can get a little loose with the ball sometimes, and I think he needs to do a better job of protecting the ball from pesky defenders. I also did think he showed some ability in High School and in EYBL play to shoot off the dribble; he especially seemed comfortable driving right and pulling up or stepping back for jumpers. More refinement of his handle will add more variation to his off-the-dribble game.
When it comes to his shooting, I once again have mixed feelings. In terms of how the shot looks, I think he shoots an easy ball, and overall, it looks pretty good to me. Where I have some concerns is in his base and how long it takes to get a shot off. I think sometimes his feet are way too narrow, and it leads to some ugly misses; I also think at times it takes him way too long to get his shot off, and his lower release can lead to him getting blocked. It’s not always the case, but his elbow can sometimes flare out a little bit in his follow-through, which is fixable.
It can’t be ignored that he shot 23.3% on threes last season, according to Synergy. Sometimes, the numbers are what they are. As much as I like how his shot looks and think he will become a decent shooter from outside until the numbers tell that same story, all of what I believe will just be theoretical. In his freshman season in Oregon, I hope he continues to tighten up his shooting mechanics and is given the freedom to let it rip from outside. It’s also important to note that when he shoots off the dribble or off movement, he struggles to get his feet set and balance right, leading to gnarly misses. I think an increase in the lower half and core strength would benefit him greatly.
My hope for Kwame is that he tightens things up and becomes a 33-37% shooter from outside. He will become a Top 5 guy in the 2024 class if he can reach that range. Even if he sits in the low 30s, that’ll be enough to convince me of his long-term shooting potential. My reason is that shooting from outside will give him much more room and space to attack the rim and create opportunities for himself and his teammates.
As a passer, he showed off some vision and touch that I was surprised to find. Whether it’s his passing in transition or in the half-court, Kwame knows how to use his size and touch to his advantage. As a guy who sometimes had to play in the post or as the high post against a high school zone, Kwame showed some nice flashes of interior passing. This is exciting because of what I think that would look like on the next level. With the type of handle and passing touch he possesses at 6’10”, you can’t help but wonder what type of short role threat he becomes. You could easily see him coming up to set a nice high screen for Scoot Henderson before rolling to the basket with the ball in his hands off a pocket pass and just slicing and dicing a defense with the threat of his passing and finishing at the rim. Not only could he be a threat in the short roll, but even in post-ups against smaller defenders, Kwame has shown the ability to find shooters on the weak or strongside corners if a defender makes the fatal decision to double him and open up passing lanes to snipers. As people like Stephen Gillespie and others from our site have mentioned, it’s important to see these players through the lens of the NBA and see how their skills would translate to a much higher level of competition.
This is so exciting, but some concerns come with all this excitement. For all the ability Kwame showed off during his time at Montverde, some moments left me scratching my head more than once. Some of the issues with him were rooted in needing to process faster. There were many good moments where he could make quick decisions, but there were also moments when it felt like the game was going a little too fast for him, which led to some messy mistakes. Whether in transition or the half-court, Kwame has to work on protecting the ball better and making faster decisions when he has the ball in his hands.
Once again, this isn’t a death sentence, and I’m not saying he’s terrible at these things. I believe he needs to spend adequate time working on these areas to be a threat with the ball in his hands. It’s also important to note that he can finish with both hands as a finisher. Still, he does lack vertical pop and the physicality to finish over larger defenders consistently. As much as I like that he can finish with either hand, I think it’ll be really important for him to continue to build strength and keep working on finishing through contact.
Defense: Get down!
If you’re reading this piece, I will assume that you’re pretty classy, cultured, and of the finer things of this world. If that is you, I will assume you’ve watched the Toy Story movies. As I was watching Kwame Evans play defense, I was reminded of Woody pretty much the whole time. The image I held in my mind was when Woody’s lover, Bo Peep, would grab Woody by the neck with her Shepherd’s Crook. Just the image of Woody flying across the screen with his limbs all over the place is what I saw from Kwame Evans on the defensive side of the ball. I want to highlight that this image isn’t a complete negative. At his size, it was pretty jarring to see how he could fly all over the court at times. He moves well laterally for his size and has long limbs that help him get to balls that he probably shouldn’t be capable of reaching. Especially in the passing lanes, there were times when he’d just wholly shut windows and steal balls that looked like they would be standard passes.
Considering his size and length, he didn’t block a ton of shots and, overall, wasn’t much of a deterrent at the rim. Watching him defend inside definitely left me wanting more, but to his credit, he did have some flashes of defending out in the perimeter.
As we know, the NBA is a much more perimeter-based game, so having big guys who are comfortable defending in space is a huge bonus. This is where Kwame may impress many people as he continues to develop this. Before, I mentioned the Woody comp because of how Kwame moves around the court. When tasked with guarding wings and guards, he does an excellent job moving his feet, cutting off driving lanes, and being a pest for ball-handlers. The issue with this, though, is consistency. Although there are fantastic flashes of Kwame doing this, we must see it more consistently. For all the exciting possessions where he’s flying around and terrorizing wings, there are also possessions where he can get caught ball-watching or not in the right spot on the floor. I thought there were possessions when he just wouldn’t get into a stance and looked pretty easy to beat off the dribble. Although I think he does show pretty good effort on this end of the court, attention to detail needs to happen for him to become a consistent threat.
His rebounding needs to be mentioned as well. For his size, I’d characterize his rebounding as sub-par. He struggles to box out consistently and mostly uses his height and length to get to balls. I’d like to see him work on this aspect of his game because of what it would mean to his offense. As I mentioned before, with his ability in transition, if he was a better rebounder, the opportunities presented to him off a defensive rebound would be so exciting.
With all his game’s hot and cold aspects, it will be interesting to see how his freshman season plays out. One of my biggest concerns for Kwame is whether he finds a defined role on offense or not in his first and potentially only season in Oregon. If he can be a good shooter from the outside and increase his strength, it’s easy to see the two-man game he could run with their guards. But if he struggles physically and with his outside shot, you can’t help but wonder if he will end up out of the rotation.
If all goes well, we’re talking about a dynamic wing prospect. At the top, I mentioned Lamar Odom, and I mean it. As always, I’m not trying to make a one-for-one comparison, but think back to his role on the title-winning Laker teams or when he was flying around for the Clippers and Heat early on in his career. If Lamar played in the modern NBA, he would have taken way more threes, but overall, his game would have been similar. I think Kwame Evans has the potential to one day play the type of role that Odom played. I don’t think I see Kwame as a number-one option for anyone, but could become a really solid secondary or tertiary option on a contender. Kwame could become a deadly shooter at his size, with the ability to make plays with the ball in his hands and offer defensive versatility with his size and lateral movement.
Whether or not Kwame becomes a Lamar Odom type of player is in his hands. For all the flashes and exciting traits, the only person who can put all the pieces together for him is himself. I’m excited to see how things play out for him in Eugene this year, and hopefully, by the end of the season, we’ll be talking about a potential Top 10 pick.