The Cleveland Cavaliers struck gold in the 2021 NBA Draft. Evan Mobley was a lanky big man out of the University of Southern California with a seemingly limitless defensive ceiling. Two years later, that ceiling still looks as high as ever as Mobley is already in contention for the highest of defensive accolades.
He becomes yet another star to be drafted No. 3 overall, an historic legacy featuring such names as Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Carmelo Anthony and James Harden. That’s just the upper crust; what about all of the titles won by Kevin McHale, Chauncey Billups, Pau Gasol and Bill Cartwright? In just the last decade Bradley Beal, Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum and Luka Doncic have been picked third.
The No. 3 pick has been great lately, too
The strong drafting out of the third slot has continued over the last three years. After Evan Mobley went third in 2021, Auburn big Jabari Smith Jr. went No. 3 to the Houston Rockets in 2022. This year, G League Ignite point guard Scoot Henderson was taken third by the Portland Trail Blazers.
It’s helpful to compare young players to one another, both as asset evaluation and as a developmental measuring stick. Mobley is older; how is he coming along as a future star? Are Smith and Henderson entering the league as better, worse, or similar prospects?
Let’s play a fun game to answer those questions. You have to take those three players and start one, bring one off the bench, and cut the last one. No team is obviously cutting any of these players, but in this scenario, it’s a forced choice. Who is on top? And who is cut loose? Let’s take a closer look.