Temecula is a place Bill Walton raves about with such passion, so much so, that he rubbed dirt from the very place all over himself during a PAC-12 halftime in 2016. The prophecy was foretold.
Former Temecula resident and University of Southern California big man Evan Mobley was taken by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the No. 3 overall selection in the 2021 NBA Draft. The seven-foot Mobley projects to anchor any defense with his lengthy frame, but there is much more to him than his impressive measurements.
With Rancho Christian High School, Mobley solidified himself as one of the nation’s top basketball players. In 2020, he was named Morgan Wootten National High School POY, the Gatorade California POY (for the second time), and a McDonald’s All-American, and he also was a finalist for the 2020 Naismith POY.
Mobley left high school as the No. 3 recruit in his class. He then moved on to USC, joining his brother, Isaiah, along with their father and assistant coach Eric Mobley. At Southern California, Evan Mobley continued his trend of collecting awards, winning the 2020-21 Pac-12 Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and Rookie of the Year. He was also an All-America second-team selection. The freshman led the conference in rebounds per game (8.7), blocks per game (2.9 — 7th in the nation), field-goal percentage (57.8), offensive rating (123.4), defensive rating (90.3), PER (29.8), win shares (6.9 — 1st in the nation), and plus-minus rating (13.7 — 1st in the nation). Mobley also contributed 16.4 points and 2.4 assists per game.
Light on his feet, the seven-foot Mobley is, first and foremost, a rim-protector with great discipline. His foul numbers this season were outstanding — only 3.1 fouls per 100 possessions — topping other highly touted defensive-oriented big men that now play in the NBA, such as Texas’ Myles Turner (6.9, 2014-15/Fr.), Kentucky’s Anthony Davis (3.7, 2011-12/Fr.), Kentucky’s Bam Adebayo (4.7, 2016-17/Fr.), and Utah’s Jakob Poeltl (4.5, 2015-16/So.). For context, Mobley averaged five blocks per 100 possessions, which slotted him right behind Turner (7.5) and in front of Poeltl (3.0).
|Position:||Power Forward/Center||Team/Class:||University of Southern California (Fr.)|
|Shot Hand:||Right||Stats:||Click here|
Mobley has multiple dimensions to his game, including accurate passing and shooting off the dribble, and he was used in a variety of ways. It is important that he has a diverse offensive package due to being a seven-footer with a high center of gravity. Not one play type accounted for more than 18 percent of his total possessions at USC. In situations when Mobley rolled to the rim, he finished 72.7 percent of these attempts on 41 total possessions. On nearly equal volume (38 possessions), he popped to the perimeter, making 41.2 percent of his jumpers. The majority of these on-ball screens were high picks, which created more space for him and the ball handler to operate.
Mobley’s jumper will fully unlock his offensive potential; his high center of gravity makes interior self-creation a bit more difficult since guys as tall and thin as him get bumped around easier. That being said, his jumper is encouraging, as he hit 48.4 percent of jumpers within 17-feet and 52 percent in between 17-feet and the three-point arc. From beyond the arc, his form deficiencies begin to show, as he hit only 30 percent from deep. Mobley proved that he is much more consistent off the catch with space; when guarded, he shot 32.1 percent on 28 possessions versus unguarded, when he made 50 percent on 24 possessions. His shooting form is not all that quick, and he has a slight hitch on the way up. His shooting flaws can be easily tweaked, so they are not huge concerns. As the 20-year-old continues to add muscle, his ability to generate lift should become easier, and I have no doubt that he will be a respectable shooter off the catch. What is interesting are his numbers taking jumpers off the dribble, albeit small samples. In 32 possessions, he shot 46.9 percent on off-the-dribble jumpers, and based on Synergy’s shot-chart data, three of his makes came from pick & rolls, five from isolations, two as the pick-and-roll ball handler, and another five came from spot-up possessions.
Mobley can be a legitimate contributor off the dribble; however, his right hand is much farther ahead than his left right now when attacking the paint. In isolation situations, Mobley contributed 1.142 PPP driving right (14 possessions), turning the ball over only 7.1 percent of the time, versus left-hand drives (17 possessions), when he produced 0.824 PPP while turning it over 35.3 percent of the time. The Cavaliers did not draft Mobley to be an isolation scorer, but this is part of the greater story of his game; when pressured to go left, he rushes and makes mistakes.
Ultimately, Mobley can be deployed in a variety of ways within halfcourt situations. Passing is easily one of his strengths. His combination of height, mobility, and awareness allow him to find cutters in the halfcourt or teammates on the break via outlet passes. He shows potential as a floor spacer, and proved that he could be highly effective as a scorer via rolls off the pick, pick-and-pops, and timely rim cuts. However, when you run him off the line into traffic, he can be forced to make mistakes, like many other freshmen, and his lack of bulk proved to be problematic in the post. Out of 586 DI players with 25 or more post possessions this past season, he ranked 502nd with a turnover percentage of 22.5 and also ranked 485th with a field-goal percentage of 39.5. What he must work on is being more effective with his left hand in traffic, and increasing his weight and strength in order to be more efficient in the post.
While there is a ton of information on Mobley’s offensive abilities, his defense made him a top-3 pick. While he weighs only 215 pounds, he is incredibly mobile for a seven-footer. Unlike many young bigs, he understands the value of his sheer length, thus allowing him to stay down on pump fakes and crowd the opponent. When he lurks for the block, he can easily swat shots with either hand, and he has the valuable tendency of tapping blocks to teammates, often leading to fast breaks.
Raw instincts are evident with Mobley, who just does not foul at the rate of a freshman center. As I mentioned before, he only averaged 3.1 fouls per 100 possessions, a testament to his awareness and assertiveness in tough defensive situations. The one question mark regarding him defensively will be how much weight/muscle that he can put on, as he will undoubtedly have trouble blocking out the bigger centers around the league. However, while he will have trouble around the margins, he will also excel as a switchable big, who will not bite on pump fakes to the same degree as his pro counterparts.
- Defensive versatility — has great length, light on his feet, switches with ease, and is disciplined on pump fakes; projects to be an elite defender who never has a bad matchup.
- Excellent shot blocker, leading the PAC-12 with a block percentage of 8.8.
- Highly efficient scorer, especially around the basket (not including post-ups):
- Ranked at the 91st percentile for PPP as an overall scorer.
- Ranked at the 92nd percentile with runners/floaters.
- Ranked at the 90th percentile around the basket, not including post-ups and runners.
- Made 66 percent of all of his halfcourt shots within seven feet.
- Effective pick-and-roll option — a mobile big with a knack for finding the open guy; has the potential of providing diverse options in pick-and-roll situations. Ranked at the 65th percentile as a scorer via the pick-and-roll (rolls and pops on 90 possessions), turning the rock over only 7.8 percent of the time.
- Transition Threat, running the floor with above average speed for a big, and understanding how to properly trail or “leak out” to maximize space, ranked at the 81st percentile for PPP in transition.
- Opportunistic Cutter, willing to dive when the lane opens up; ranked at the 72nd percentile for PPP on cuts.
- Potential as a shooter:
- Very effective from close to midrange, ranking at the 80th percentile from within 17 feet (0.968 PPP, 48.4%), and ranking at the 90th percentile from 17 feet to the 3-point line (1.04 PPP, 52%).
- Showed that he can hit midrange jumpers off movement, ranking at the 78th percentile on 32 jumpers off the dribble (0.938 PPP, 46.9%).
- Shot well when given time; on unguarded catch-and-shoot attempts, averaged 1.25 PPP (68th percentile, 50%).
- Finds open teammates — including passes, ranked at the 88th percentile in isolation situations (1.077 PPP), and during pass out situations when the defense committed, ranked at the 90th percentile with 1.412 PPP.
- Active rebounder, with a quick second and third jump plus elite length; ranked eighth in the PAC-12 with a rebound percentage of 14.6, and ranked at the 85th percentile for PPP on put-backs.
- Immediate shooting ability from distance — it could be a couple years before he’s a legitimate threat from outside, as he hit only 30 percent of his 40 three-point attempts, and shot 69 percent from the free-throw line.
- Weight and strength need to increase in order to consistently take advantage of his height and length; a lack of bulk, combined with a high center of gravity, contributed to his struggles in post-up situations (ranked at 29th percentile, 0.712 PPP).
- Off-hand — in space, his left hand is fine, but when pressure arrives, has trouble with turnovers.
- Isolation scoring — his handle has potential, but not quick enough just yet to create a lot off the dribble. Thin frame prevents him from overpowering opponents, so maximizing his perimeter skills will help him a lot more than anything down low.
Going third overall, Cleveland took the best talent available in Mobley. There is certainty that he will excel as a versatile big that leverages his length to ward off opponents from the interior. He can switch on screens with ease and stays patient against shot fakes. Offensively, he has a number of skills that need to improve. Shooting the three will take a considerable amount of reps over the next few years to “iron out his hitch.” Improving his left hand low-dribble will help to mitigate turnovers, and adding weight and strength will make him a tougher matchup against the strong athletes of the NBA.
Sources, Credits, and Acknowledgements
Stats used in our scouting reports come from Synergy Sports Technology, RealGM.com, and Sports-Reference.com. Other outside sources are noted with links to the source. Click here to see the statistical abbreviation key.