Evan Mobley was considered one of the best defensive prospects to enter the NBA Draft in recent memory, and his rookie year did not disappoint. He averaged 1.7 blocks per game and was racking up defensive highlights on a nightly basis. The following season Mobley took another large step forward, serving as the linchpin to the league’s No. 1 defense alongside Jarrett Allen. He finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting and landed on the All-Defense First Team.
Can Mobley take another step forward this season and be the best defensive player in the league? On the surface that seems attainable; if Mobley was the third-best defender last season it’s not that far to being No. 1. At the same time, winning Defensive Player of the Year this season would make him the youngest winner in league history.
Mobley has the size and length to swallow up shot attempts in the paint, excelling at rotating to the rim and swatting away shots. His lateral agility and timing make him ideal in any spot of a zone defense, and he even has untapped potential as a perimeter wing defender, giving him versatility no other player in the league can likely claim.
The competition is fierce around the league to be considered the league’s best defender, but no single player seems unassailable. Jaren Jackson Jr. won DPOY last season but his combination of injuries and frequent foul trouble result in limited availability. Draymond Green, Rudy Gobert and Brook Lopez are aging out of the combination, while Nic Claxton and Walker Kessler aren’t yet there. Bam Adebayo and Giannis Antetokounmpo are both strong candidates, but Mobley was better than both last season. Anthony Davis was the best defender in the playoffs but is unlikely to play enough or hard enough during the regular season to claim the title.
Evan Mobley is already one of the league’s best defenders after two seasons in the league. Could he be the very best as early as this year? It’s not that crazy.