If it wasn’t for Cade Cunningham also being in this draft, and all that his wondrous versatile potential looks to be able to bring, Evan Mobley would be an easy lock for the first overall pick.
Coming off a spectacular lone season at USC that saw him named as the Pac-12 Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the year and, of course, Freshman of the Year, Mobley is a dominant-looking centre prospect with everything you want from a modern big on both ends of the floor.
At around the Nos. 2 and 3 picks, where the Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers are picking, there aren’t the best fits for Mobley given the presence of Christian Wood and Jarrett Allen already manning the middle on those respective teams, but as far as pure talent and upside goes, Mobley appears to be every bit the prospect that Cunningham, and maybe, down the road, could be more.
Here’s a bit more about Mobley and why he’s garnering a lot of hype heading into the July 29 draft.
Height: Seven-feet | Weight: 215 lbs
2020-21 stats PPG: 16.4 | RPG: 8.7 | BPG: 2.9 | FG%: 57.8
A modern franchise centre
If this NBA season has taught us anything, it’s that the death of the big man has been greatly exaggerated.
From the MVP race between Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid, to the utter dominance we’ve seen from Giannis Antetokounmpo during the Finals, it’s clear that having a seven-footer who can score and defend the rim is still very valuable – it just looks a little differently than what it used to be.
Yes, while it’s of course a great asset to have a talented big man on your roster, he won’t necessarily be asked to get a buck from the low block, nor does it mean he can only patrol the paint defensively anymore, either.
Instead, the way the best bigs in the games now impact it is by their ability to rim run hard and pop out for threes in screen actions and, while on defence, is able to drop back and defend the rim, hedge out or switch and have the lateral quicks to stay with smaller players out on the perimeter.
It’s a lot to ask for, and most NBA centres can maybe do just one of these things on offence and defence, each, but the true superstar centres can do it all, and Mobley looks like one who can do it all.
Mobley looks like he’ll be able to become a true go-to option as his finishing ability and playmaking skills out of the pick-and-roll looked elite while he was in college.
He’s a vertical lob threat off a roll, can attack off the dribble and finish with force, has a good sense of when to pop out after setting a screen to find space for an open three or mid-range jimmy and, off the short roll he has the full repertoire of hooks and short jumpers you want from your big man, and has the added bonus of being a skilled passer who can make quick reads to find cutting or open teammates in the corner.
Defensively, Mobley might have even more potential.
As a seven-footer with very quick feet and explosive, fluid athleticism, he has no issues defending in space and showed an already advanced understanding of how to cover the pick-and-roll at the collegiate level.
Additionally, as a rim protector, you won’t find much better as his 87 total blocks during the college season ranked third among all NCAA leaders.
Mobley is a great athlete, as previously mentioned, and he utilizes it and every inch of his height, and combines it with exceptional natural timing to turn aside shots.
As far as a big man prospect goes, Mobley looks like the total package, and any team should be happy to have the chance to add him to their team.
Has flaws that can be corrected, but can never be fully shored up
Like any prospect, as talented as Mobley looks to be, he isn’t without his flaws.
For one, while he has good looking mechanics that suggests he can become a good shooter, he shot just 30 per cent on 40 total attempts from three-point range this past season with the Trojans. The potential is there for him to eventually become a more consistent outside threat, but it’s probably going to take some time – and a lot of work on his part.
More concerning, however, is the slender frame Mobley sports. Though he’s an athletic marvel, Mobley unfortunately has a high centre of gravity and at 215 pounds, doesn’t carry a lot of weight.
On one hand, because of how relatively light he is, it’s able to aid the quickness and agility aspects of his game – especially on defence – but because he’s kind of stick-like right now, in addition to that high centre of gravity, he’ll be easily moved by the big bangers of the NBA like Embiid and Jokic.
Chances are, Mobley will put on some more weight as his career progresses, and he’s sure to get stronger, too, but his natural balance may always allow him to be easily moved by the burliest of NBA bigs, and his frame simply might not allow him to put on the necessary meat to absorb the shock he’s bound to feel.
Patience might be required with Mobley
Lastly, while Mobley certainly looks to have the goods, it’s important to remember that as a centre prospect, the results may not be there as quickly as some of his guard and wing counterparts in the 2021 draft.
Big men historically take a little longer to get up to speed before they begin contributing in major ways, and that could happen with Mobley again, with the hope, in two or three years down the line, he’ll finally blossom and flourish in a similar manner to the way Deandre Ayton has for the Phoenix Suns.
As you may remember, Ayton was taken first overall in 2018, a draft that also featured Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Collin Sexton, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Michael Porter Jr. among others.
Despite putting up good numbers through each season he’s played, conversation unfairly followed Ayton around his worthiness as a No. 1 overall pick, that is until these 2021 playoffs, where he’s had a real breakout, proving his worth as a key cog on both ends of the floor as part of Phoenix’s march to the Finals.
A similar situation could happen with Mobley, but if we can just give him some time, chances are the kid will turn out alright.