Ahead of the 2021 NBA Draft, the Cavaliers had something of an envious position.
Cleveland didn’t sit first and have its choice of the litter.
It didn’t pick second, either.
No, at third, the Cavaliers’ choice was a relatively simple one: pick the best remaining player out of a top-three (ish) that consisted of Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, and Evan Mobley.
All along, the Cavs wanted Mobley and even turned down a bevy of picks from the Thunder to stand pat and take the USC product.
Sometimes, things just work out the way you hoped.
One year later and Mobley looks the part of a bona fide star.
He was running away with Rookie of the Year honors after a strong start to his freshman campaign.
Unfortunately, injuries down the stretch opened the door for Toronto’s Scottie Barnes to snatch the crown.
But that hasn’t stopped many from hailing Mobley as the next “it” talent in the NBA.
That “many” includes renowned NBA trainer Olin Simplis, better known as “The Guard Whisperer.”
Simplis has a few decades of experience as a trainer, having worked with guys like Spencer Dinwiddie, Steven Adams, and Jalen Suggs (one of Mobley’s draft-night peers).
The only players in NBA history to average at least 15 PPG, 8 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.5 BPG and 50% FG during their rookie season.
— Will (@TheWillHoltz) July 29, 2022
And now, Simplis is working with Mobley.
And has apparently been impressed with what he’s seen.
In an interview with Wenzell Ortiz of Sideline Sources, Simplis couldn’t help but invoke past and present NBA legends:
“[Mobley’s] next step is being in the conversations with the best bigs in the league. I see Evan as a hybrid between a Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and KG [Kevin Garnett]. The way Giannis takes the ball off the rim and puts pressure on the opposing team with the push and his playmaking abilities. KG’s back-to-the-basket turn-around actions. Just keep refining his overall game! The kid has a chance to be special.”
What other second-year player is out here getting hyped like that?
Coming out of the draft, one NBA analyst comped Mobley to Christian Wood and Chris Bosh.
Wood is a good center, Bosh was a great center, but Garnett and Giannis are all-timers.
If Giannis retired today, he would be a surefire Hall of Famer and likely top-20 talent in NBA history.
While Simplis’ praise might be hyperbole, it’s still exciting whenever one draws such a lofty comparison.
On the Money
The next tool Mobley needs to add to his workbox is a reliable mid-range and long-range shot.
If we compare Mobley’s rookie campaign to Garnett’s eye-popping 2008-09 season (49.7% from the field, 17.8 points, 10 rebounds), we can see the gulf between the two players.
Both did their most significant damage at the rim — Mobley made 75.9% of his 315 attempts last season while Garnett made 70.2% of his 339 attempts at the rim.
But Garnett was also fairly lethal from just about anywhere in the arc (though beyond the arc he was hardly used).
Most clutch points by a rookie last season:
67 — Cade Cunningham
58 — Scottie Barnes
56 — Evan Mobley, Franz Wagner pic.twitter.com/0ScOr6uV1C
— StatMuse (@statmuse) August 4, 2022
Mobley, on the other hand, saw his scoring dip the further he moved from the basket, with the exception of shots between 10 and 16 feet from the rim (44.4% on 124 shots).
Over time, Mobley should develop a better touch and feel, progressing his game just like Garnett’s.
When he adds that next level, expect him to be virtually unstoppable.
He’s already on track to be a Giannis-level defensive talent
Last season, he tied with the Greek Freak for Defensive Win Shares at 3.7, finished top-six in blocks per game, and top-20 in defensive rating.
The Cavs certainly have something special on their hands.