For their third pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Evan Mobley from the USC Trojans. It wasn’t surprising they picked the 7-foot defensive stalwart. It’s still a matter of wait-and-see if the Mobley-Cavaliers partnership will translate into a playoff appearance. We will need a good number of sample games to see how Mobley fares as a pro. But just for fun, let’s try to grade the Cavaliers’ choice to select the USC standout.
Center Evan Mobley: A
By now, Cleveland Cavaliers fans are well-aware of what Evan Mobley will bring to the floor. The number one thing in his arsenal is his defensive game. Last season, he led the nation with 2.9 blocks per game with the Trojans. What makes him the best defender in this year’s draft class is that Mobley isn’t your typical seven-foot center who camps in the paint and swats shots. Switching him to smaller guards is a foolish decision as Mobley has enough lateral quickness to stay in front of them.
Looking ahead, having a credible defensive presence in Mobley bodes well for the Cavaliers’ quest to become playoff contenders once again. Rebuilding teams usually skip getting a defensive player in the early stages of the process. They usually focus on shooters, playmakers, or whoever’s available on the board. It’s later on — when they’ve made the playoffs but get booted out early — that they realize they need a shot-blocker in their team or at least an assistant coach who specializes in defense. The Cleveland Cavaliers were smart and lucky enough to get a defensive player right from the draft.
To make things sweeter, Mobley will now pair up with Jarrett Allen, another defensive beast whom the Cavaliers just inked to a massive five-year, $100 million deal. This is a signal that the Cleveland Cavaliers are about to develop into a team with the twin tower combo of Mobley and Allen as their center. It’s a rather unorthodox move in today’s era. NBA coaches have grown fond of fielding small-ball lineups. Then again, both Allen and Mobley can stay in front of even the quickest guards today.
The only wrinkle (which is why we cannot give them an A+) is that for the Cavaliers’ rejuvenated defense, they might have some trouble swishing the net. Evan Mobley averaged 16.4 points per game on 57.8 percent from the field. Mobley scores mainly through lobs, putbacks from offensive rebounds, pick-and-rolls, and the occasional jumper.
We can say that Evan Mobley already has a good offensive arsenal — if he was in a different era. Scouts themselves have pointed out Mobley’s lack of a smooth stroke. In today’s era, big men should have this in this toolbox even if they’re not the primary option on offense. Not only will this be good for Mobley’s own development, but it will also give the Wine and Gold lots of flexibility on offense. A big man with a good stroke only brings nothing but goodness in today’s era.
The Cleveland Cavaliers front office may have anticipated this. That’s why they got Ricky Rubio from via trade. The man averages 7.6 assists per game for his career. He knows how to get everyone involved. Rubio is very comfortable with pick-and-roll situations as well as other offensive sets. He will even be a good mentor for up-and-coming guard Darius Garland who’s also a decent playmaker.