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Center of Attention

by Joe Gabriele Beat Writer

Center of Attention

Cavs Snag USC Big Man Evan Mobley at No. 3

There were some major surprises in the First Round of the 2021 Draft. The Cavaliers’ pick was not one of them.

The Wine & Gold went with the player they’ve been aligned with for weeks – tabbing talented seven-footer from Southern California, Evan Mobley, with the No. 3 overall pick, adding the 20-year-old to a young core ready to take the next step.

The highest Cavaliers draft pick since Andrew Wiggins was selected with the top overall pick back in 2014, Mobley enters the league after a prolific single season with the Trojans. As a freshman, Mobley was named Pac-12 Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. The only other player to have accomplished that feat in a major conference was Anthony Davis in 2012.

After building the backcourt in two consecutive Drafts and taking forward Isaac Okoro with the top pick last year, Cleveland went with the explosive big man who finished last season as the Pac-12’s top rebounder (8.7rpg) and shot-blocker (3.0bpg) while averaging 16.8ppg, sixth-best mark in the conference.

”A lot of people have been comparing me to Chris Bosh, Anthony Davis, Giannis – players like that,” said Mobley after the Cavaliers made the pick. “I definitely see a good amount of similarity with all those players, but I feel like I’m my own player and I have my own tendencies which make me unique.”

In his single season at USC, Mobley was named Pac-12 Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year.

Jennifer Pottheiser via NBAE/Getty Images

Mobley has been described as a “unicorn” – a true seven-footer (with a 7-4 wingspan) who can do it all on the offensive end. The San Diego native can score the ball from all three levels. He can create his own shot – a rarity for most seven-footers. He can shoot over smaller defenders, is far too quick for clunkier big men and has a varied arsenal of shots – from a smooth mid-range jumper to jump-hooks over both shoulders.

He’s not yet a long-range threat – drilling just 12 triples on 40 attempts as a collegian – but he’s shown a nice stroke that will allow him to get better. He shot nearly 58 percent from the floor and 70 percent from the stripe.

In 33 games with USC, Mobley notched double-figure scoring in all but two – turning in 10 games of 20-points plus. He also notched 12 double-doubles – including a pair in the NCAA Tournament, where he led the Trojans to the Elite 8 before falling to Gonzaga.

On the defensive end, Mobley was an absolute nightmare for Pac-12 opponents.

The dominant freshman blocked at least two shots in 24 of his 33 appearances – including four games with four blocks, three games with five (including back-to-back contests in the Pac-12 Tourney) and three games with six.

His 95 total swats were second overall in the NCAA. Cleveland’s leader last year, Jarrett Allen blocked 71 blocks in 51 games.

”From a defensive standpoint, his versatility is really unique for a guy his size,” praised Cavaliers GM Koby Altman. “And then on the offensive side of the ball, (he’s) extremely skilled, can step out and shoot it, can handle it, was a guard coming up and had an incredible growth spurt.”

Mobley grabbed double-digit boards in a dozen games, nine of those contests with at least four off the offensive glass.

The Cavaliers didn’t have another pick going into Thursday night and didn’t jump back in to either round. But they head into Friday morning with a young man they hope will be a cornerstone player for a decade-plus.

”This is a large injection of talent, along with what we’ve already established,” said Altman. “We want him to set his goals really high. We’ve had some unbelievable success in this organization and (know) it’s really hard – and you need great talent to get there. (Mobley) has high hopes and aspirations, and we’re right there with him.”

With Evan Mobley, the Wine & Gold got younger and bigger and better. And the future got a whole lot brighter.

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