I’m not going to say it was surprising when Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green went 1-2 in the 2021 NBA Draft, and then Evan Mobley went third to the Cleveland Cavaliers. All three players, to me, have potential superstar traits, and I believe we’ll see them receive plenty of All-Star nods, with Cunningham doing so representing the Detroit Pistons and Green doing so for the Houston Rockets.
From the Cavs’ perspective, though, landing Mobley has been a home run. Should the Cavaliers get credit for taking Mobley there? Not really, but it’s gone as well as they could’ve hoped, if not better, really.
Mobley has had 13.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.8 blocks per game, and he and Jarrett Allen have formed a formidable defensive pairing at the 4/5 often.
In Mobley’s case, his ability to contain perimeter threats when needed has aided the group’s overall defense, and even with him needing to get stronger in coming years, he still has been near-masterful with his verticality on shot contests near the basket. His length and instincts have been a key reason why he’s typically led the NBA in contested shots per outing throughout the season, and is currently third in that metric, too, per NBA.com’s hustle data.
Mobley’s talent level, also with the offensive end in mind, and outstanding IQ have made him such a difference-maker for this Cavs team, that’s off to such a promising 19-13 start.
And in the spirit of the Christmas holiday on Saturday, for those who are celebrating of course, it seemed only natural to highlight how the Cavaliers landing Mobley in the 2021 NBA Draft has proven to be the ultimate Christmas present.
Mobley has been terrific for the Cavs, and them landing him at #3 in the past draft was quite the early Christmas present.
Simply put, Mobley has been everything one could’ve asked for, and more for these Cavaliers.
He’s a constant lob threat for the likes of Darius Garland and Ricky Rubio, cuts so well for a young big in both settled offense and in transition, finishes so well in off-ball situations inside, and his passing feel for a rookie big is truly rare.
Plus, as the season has worn on, he’s shown the mid-range abilities as a pull-up player that were on display in his lone collegiate season at USC. Coupled with that, as Mobley has gotten more comfortable, he’s flashed some nice touch on fadeaways on occasion, and with his willingness and feel for passing out of double teams, that shot will become all the more dangerous in coming years.
As we’ve also alluded to, even for such a young player at 20 years old, Mobley’s defensive awareness, positioning and sound play has been a big reason why Cleveland is currently #3 in the league in the defensive rating. Others, such as Jarrett Allen, Isaac Okoro and Ricky Rubio deserve credit there too, also, and I’m not taking anything away from them.
But looking onward, as Mobley hopefully gets stronger, he’ll become even more impactful, and even now, he prevents his share of shots as well on the perimeter with his length and fluidity, for instance, and that enables Cleveland to deploy him at the top of zones at times.
Anyway, with the Christmas holiday on Saturday, factoring in both ends of the floor, and with how advanced he is, it’s clear to me that Cleveland received an amazing early Christmas gift back in the 2021 NBA Draft when Mobley was there at #3. As our own Justin Brownlow recently demonstrated, no rookie has impacted winning more than Mobley, and in games he’s been active, the Cavaliers are 17-8, which is pretty remarkable.
Hopefully Mobley, who is among a litony of Cavs players that are currently in COVID-19 health and safety protocols after reportedly testing positive for it, can get healthy soon here, along with Okoro and others. The omicron variant is reportedly sweeping through the league, as one can deduce with so many NBA players in protocols.
Generally speaking though, it’s evident that things definitely worked out for the Cavs with them landing Mobley, given what we’ve already seen from the young 7-footer. And the more I watch him, the more he appears to have potential superstar written all over him.
That’s a gift that will absolutely keep on giving.