The Cleveland Cavaliers‘ roster just got a lot more exciting after their decision to select USC big man Evan Mobley No. 3 overall in the 2021 NBA Draft on Thursday night, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Mobley is the type of player who can transform a franchise. When LeBron James left Cleveland after his first and second stints, the Cavs have been floundering and haven’t even come close to the playoffs in those years. Mobley could symbolize a change to that perpetual downward trend.
It was widely rumored that Cavs guard Collin Sexton could be dealt in a draft night trade, and even with Mobley being the pick here, Cleveland traded for Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio just hours before the draft. That seems to suggest Sexton will soon be gone, along with disgruntled All-Star forward Kevin Love.
Mobley will headline the frontcourt alongside Jarrett Allen, with a capable guard tandem in Rubio and Darius Garland as the main pieces the Cavs build around for the time being.
Garland is entering his third season, and if Isaac Okoro takes a big step as an NBA sophomore, he could well emerge as a top-flight wing defender. Combine those elements with Mobley, Allen and Rubio, and you have the makings of a rather good starting five.
Evan Mobley scouting report, NBA player comparison
It’s intriguing to look at what the Cavs now have on paper, but let’s focus on Mobley, because he’s going to be the X-factor that makes all the pieces around him work. He’s legitimate 7-footer with the ability to handle the ball like a guard, a soft shooting touch, excellent lateral quickness and a knack for protecting the paint.
Mobley’s per-game averages at USC were as follows: 16.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.9 blocks. The Trojans really didn’t have other NBA-caliber talent around him, yet Mobley still led his squad to the Elite Eight.
Having just turned 20 in June, Mobley still has plenty of room to fill out his 210-pound frame. As he continues to inevitably add strength and grow into his body, Mobley will be even harder to contain. His finesse, well-rounded offensive skill set complements a tenacious, relentless demeanor on the defensive end.
Thanks to his advanced ball-handling skills, Mobley is a threat to create off the dribble, and he’s extremely dangerous when facing up against defenders. What makes him even more of a load to handle is his high basketball IQ and understanding of how to set up teammates for open shots.
Mobley is a threat to pass after he slashes into the lane, or he can deal from the post after he draws a double team. He’s both crafty and authoritative when finishing at the rim, which really makes him a nightmare to defend even as he has such a higher ceiling to explore.
What’s immediately going to translate to the NBA is Mobley’s defense. He can honestly guard any position on the floor, and his knack for timing his jumps leads to plenty of altered shots and blocks.
Because of his unique skill set, it’s difficult to box Mobley in with an individual NBA player comparison. This might sound crazy, but Anthony Davis isn’t far off. That’s kind of what you’re looking at with Mobley.
Davis’ build, defense and more controlled style of play matches up well with what Mobley brings to the hardwood. Where the two players defer is Mobley’s lesser shooting ability — at least to this point — but the youngster definitely has more of a competitive streak than AD entering the NBA.