In his freshman year with the USC Trojans, 7-foot centre Evan Mobley did not disappoint as he asserted his dominance on both ends of the floor. The 20-year-old big man proved to be an elite shot blocker and interior scorer, while being able to stretch the floor and hit shots from the midrange or three-point line during the 2020-2021 college season.
The freshman centre averaged 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game while shooting an impressive 57.8 percent from the field. He also accumulated 95 blocks for the season, which is the second-most in NCAA this year.
Mobley’s defensive contributions were certainly not overlooked as he was awarded the Pac-12 Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year, becoming just the second player from a major conference to accomplish this feat since Anthony Davis in 2012.
He was also named to the Pac-12 All-Defensive and All-Freshman Team, and First-Team All-Pac-12 as well.
Mobley’s versatile defence and scoring prowess helped lead USC to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2001 and is a big reason why he’s projected as a top-three pick ahead of the 2021 NBA draft.
While the Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers have the second and third pick, both teams already have talented big men on their roster in Christian Wood (Rockets) and Jarrett Allen (Cavaliers), which means there’s a chance Mobley could slide to the fourth spot and join the Toronto Raptors.
Here’s how Mobley could make an impact on the organization:
At 7-feet, 215 pounds equipped with a 7-foot-4 wingspan, Mobley is primed to become an elite defender in the NBA thanks to his excellent mobility, coordination, and athleticism on the court.
Take this clip for example. While the big man has impeccable timing with his shot blocking, Mobley's wingspan allows him to come away with a block without causing a goaltending violation.
There’s more versatility to his defensive prowess as Mobley has no problem switching, dropping or hedging in pick-and-roll situations — whether it be altering an opponent’s shot or closing out on the perimeter.
However, the 20-year-old centre’s game isn’t limited to above the rim as he can also put the ball on the floor in transition or drive and finish at the rim. Once Mobley gets in the paint, he can knock down an array of floaters and hook shots due his soft touch at the basket as seen in this clip.
Mobley can stop on a dime then hit a spin move for a right-handed floater over his defender. The best part is he’s able to knock down these types of shots on a consistent basis with his left as well.
He’s also a solid passer and capable of finding the open man on the break. Even when under pressure, Mobley always seems to maintain his composure and knows when to make the right pass, as he shows in this clip.
When the double-team comes for Mobley, he remains patient until he finds the right moment to dish to his teammate and brother, Isaiah Mobley, for an open dunk.
With his unique skill set, Mobley has the potential to develop into one of the best two-way centres in the NBA.
While he has a lot of upside, Mobley’s thin frame will make it difficult in the paint when battling with the likes of Joel Embiid, Deandre Ayton or NIkola Jokić. However, he should be able to add more strength as he progresses throughout the season and offseason.
At USC, Mobley showed an ability to knock down shots along the perimeter, but he still needs more improvement as he only shot 30 percent from beyond the arc and 69.4 percent from the free-throw line in college. Further development on his jump shot and expanding his range will only add more depth to his game.
As previously mentioned, the 20-year-old draft prospect is able to hit a wide range of shots with a soft touch at the rim, but doesn’t possess a variety of post moves aside from spinning either towards or away from the basket.
This may stifle his effectiveness in the league once teams take away Mobley’s go-to move, but again, it’s something he’ll have to develop as his career progresses.
Fit with the Raptors
The biggest problem for the Raptors throughout the 2020-2021 campaign was filling the centre position after losing both Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka in free agency.
Then after waiving Alex Len and the disappointing play of Aron Baynes, the Raptors were essentially being outplayed at that position for the majority of the season until they signed Khem Birch in April.
This is no disrespect to Birch or Chris Boucher, both of whom played well in their roles, but drafting Mobley would be a huge step up compared to last season, and although he may lose the battle in the paint on most nights, he gives the team some much needed length and rim protection.
Having an athletic big like Mobley, who’s great in pick-and-rolls, would make them a threat on the lob or pop situations with Fred VanVleet, Malachi Flynn or (potentially) Kyle Lowry, if he re-signs with the team.
However, Mobley’s lack of post moves and mid-level shooting would limit the Raptors' ability to stretch the floor or attack the paint, but that’s something he can develop over time to unlock his full potential.
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