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Evan Mobley and managing expectations

With Evan Mobley drafted to be the centerpiece of the franchise, there needs to be expectations set in place because his development could take awhile.

2021 NBA Draft Photo by Michael J. LeBrecht II/NBAE via Getty Images

This past Thursday, draft day arrived and with it came Cleveland’s new prodigal son Evan Mobley. Mobley, the highly touted seven-foot big man out of USC has had most Cavalier fans salivating on what looks to be the first bona fide star brought into the latest iteration of the rebuilding franchise. Many scouts have had player comps to only heighten the excitement for fans like. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor compares him to Chris Bosh and various other scouts state he has the defensive upside of Anthony Davis. With comps like those, it’s not hard to see why Cavs’ fans are now expecting the world from the young 20-year-old.

However, expecting Mobley to look like these players at all from the opening tip of the 2021-2022 season is a tall task. In fact, like the players he has often been compared to it’ll take time for Mobley to get acclimated and develop into the star that many have come to expect.

Cavalier fans have gone through the same song and dance with Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, and Issac Okoro that I would envision with Mobley as well. All three of the Cavs’ previous first-rounders had up and down seasons in their rookie year only looking to grow and develop their game in their sophomore year. Mobley looks to be a tier above the past Cavs’ selections but he also comes into the league at a position that lately seems to take young players more time to get acclimated to the NBA.

Mobley’s biggest issue is his build- or lack thereof. Even though Mobley is seven-foot tall possesses a 7’4 wingspan, he is still very slender. In lineups where Jarrett Allen is not there to help against bulkier bigs in the league, I can see situations where Mobley gets bullied in the paint and the post. This issue should not persist as he grows older and unless you get him on some Bryson DeChambeau-type workout plan, his rookie year will certainly consist of mismatches.

One of Mobley’s most popular comparisons is Anthony Davis who had a similar frame issue. Even though Davis was a talented defender, it led to him struggling mightily by the end of his rookie year. Davis in his rookie year allowed 1.11 points per possession and the then Hornets allowed more points per possession with him on the floor (via Hoops Habit). As we know, that problem vanished for Davis as he has turned into one of the more dominant defensive forces in the entire NBA.

Now, Mobley has more of an offensive feel for the game than Davis did coming into the league. However, Mobley does not possess much in terms of a jumper or a three-point shot. This is something Cavs’ fans have gotten used to from past rookies. Sexton and Okoro early in their rookie years never had to keep their defenders honest as they looked more like bricklayers than basketball players. However, the Cavaliers’ coaching staff in the past has done great work on their shot, and especially in the case of Collin Sexton who has turned into a three-level scorer with Okoro making slight strides as well.

One of Mobley’s best skills is his ability to find passing lanes that no one at his size or position naturally seems to possess. This skill set should allow for Mobley to be able to keep his man close and not have them slip into a drop coverage. If Mobley can pick apart NBA defense sets the way he did at USC it should open up many easy assists for the Cavaliers in the upcoming season. It also gives him the offensive value that should still allow him to stretch the floor while getting time to let his shot develop throughout the year. I have frequently seen Chris Bosh and Jaren Jackson Jr as offensive comparisons from scouts. While this could be what he develops into as a player, I don’t think Cavs’ fans should let this be their expectation as Mobley is a more raw shooter than both of them and also doesn’t possess a diverse shot bag either.

Mobley is a fascinating prospect with tons of upside on both ends of the floor. Mobley looks to be a future defensive anchor and an offensive hub for the Cavaliers. Players like him though take a while to develop into the bright star that they one day flourish into. Mobley may not be Anthony Davis or Chris Bosh off the opening tip, but with the right amount of development and patience, it wouldn’t be outlandish to say Mobley could be one of the best big men in the league.