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Grading The Pick: Cavs Draft USC Big Man Evan Mobley
The Cleveland Cavaliers drafted the guy that they must hope is the future of the franchise on Thursday night in big man Evan Mobley out of the University of Southern California. The Cavs were lucky on lottery night to jump up into the top three in a loaded draft, and there’s a chance that they’ll have the best player five years from now.
Alright, they picked Mobley, what’s there to like about this guy?
Mobley is a do-it-all big man, and despite being a 7-footer, he’s not someone that should immediately be characterized as a traditional center. His skills on the perimeter defensively will keep him on the floor in any scenario. He’s not going to be a liability on that end of the floor, especially as he learns the NBA game. Aside from his ability on the perimeter, he’s a strong interior defender that shouldn’t get bullied in the NBA, although he could stand to gain a bit of strength (and likely will) once he’s in the league. While at USC, Mobley averaged three blocks per game. He’s not going to be tasked with being Cleveland primary rim defender right away, but it’s a role he certainly will be good enough to handle if he needs to down the road.
On the offensive end of the floor, he’s going to be a terrific player in the pick-and-roll. He and Darius Garland should be a fantastic duo to watch navigate together on the offensive end of the floor. Mobley has multiple options as the screen setter, and will be able to run towards the rim, pass off the roll, or pop out for open jumpers. He’s a good finisher at the rim despite not having a very strong back-to-the-basket game for a player his size at this point.
There have to be concerns, no?
For Mobley to reach his apex, and the Cavs to ultimately succeed at the highest level possible, his outside shot needs to improve. While at USC he shot 30% from 3-point range on just 40 attempts on the season. In a vacuum, the percentage from deep isn’t the biggest deal, but when looking at his free throw percentage of 69.4 percent, it’s not the most encouraging sign that he’s going to drastically improve in the shooting department.
Additionally, while he should be a versatile, above-average defender throughout his career, when he’s squaring off against throwback big men early on in his career, things may not go well due to his frame. He’s reportedly 215 pounds, and when trying to wrestle older, more mature bigs in the post, things aren’t going to go well as a youngster. Luckily, he may not be asked to do that a ton, as long as the Cavs retain Jarrett Allen.
What should the plan be for Mobley?
The Cavs can play Mobley and Allen together, and it’s something they absolutely should do quite a bit, at least early in Mobley’s career. That may be a different story when this team is finally ready to win, but for right now, it will be the best-case scenario for everybody. On the defensive end of the floor, teams should have a tough time scoring on the interior when they’re both on the floor, and combining the switch-ability that Mobley should have with Isaac Okoro on that end should lead to a much improved defense for Cleveland.
Offensively, Mobley is already going to be good, but he and Garland should both make each other better. As Garland continues to develop as a lead ballhandler, doing so with an elite-level pick-and-roll partner is going to help him shine, and vice versa. There could be something special to be had with that partnership for years to come, especially if the jumper develops for Mobley.
Does this mean the Cavs have to trade Collin Sexton?
Wow! We finally got to the most pressing question many fans have had this offseason. Are the Cavs going to trade Collin Sexton or not? Well, we still don’t have an answer to that question. If the Cavs are going to hang on to Sexton and pay him, this is the only scenario where it makes sense. If the team would have ended up selecting Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, or Jalen Suggs, moving Sexton would have been much closer to necessary. Now, with an additional big man in the picture, the Cavs likely need to bolster their depth in the backcourt. This doesn’t mean it’s all of a sudden a good idea to give Sexton a big time extension, but it does make it more likely he’s on Cleveland’s roster when opening night rolls around.
So, are the Cavs going to be good now?
Well, not exactly, yet. The addition of Mobley means that the Cavs have a legitimate hope to be good in the future with the core group they have in place now. The pieces that Cleveland had assembled before Thursday night most were filled with complimentary pieces. Now, Mobley can be the straw that stirs the whole drink. A franchise cornerstone was needed, and the Cavs found it.
Cleveland has a chance to be really good, soon, but it's likely not going to be in 2022.
Overall grade - A
This was a draft that was once upon a time thought of as a five-player draft. Then, Jonathan Kuminga was exiled to a lower tier away from Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, Mobley, and Jalen Suggs.
What turned into a four-player draft was once again cut down, as Suggs has been seemingly knocked down a level compared to the other three. The Cavs staying in position at third overall and selecting the best player on the board is a big win for the franchise. The rebuild since LeBron James left in 2018 has mostly netted complimentary players through the draft, but the Cavs finally may have drafted their franchise cornerstone on Thursday night.
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