The Cleveland Cavaliers have selected USC big man Evan Mobley with the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Mobley thrived in the Pac-12 last season by averaging 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game for the Trojans. He was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year and an All-American in the process, and he will now join a Cleveland team that sorely needs talent as it moves into the fourth year of an extended rebuild.
Cleveland has not made the playoffs since 2018, when LeBron James left. When you factor in the four years he spent with the Miami Heat and the five before he was drafted, the Cavaliers have now missed the playoffs in their last 12 seasons without James on the roster. The front office has shown unusual patience in attempting to lift the Cavaliers out of those struggles, but eventually, they are going to have to make it out of the lottery and start winning games.
Mobley should help quite a bit on that front. He projects as a truly special defensive player, one capable of switching onto the perimeter and hanging with guards just as easily as he can block shots in the paint. He's a strong 3-point shooter that can put the ball on the floor and score from almost anywhere. Comparisons to stars like Chris Bosh and Anthony Davis have been justifiably thrown around with him, and as Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo have proven in the past two NBA Finals, having a versatile big man like that is a critical component of winning a championship in the current league.
Gary Parrish's grade: A+
Here's what CBS Sports' Gary Parrish had to say about Mobley as he graded each team's pick in the NBA Draft:
I actually think this is the easiest pick in the draft. There was nothing to think about. He can defend and score, stretch it out with the jumper and do more. They've got a potential star with this pick.
Cleveland still has some roster issues to work out. The Cavaliers are expected to try to re-sign starting center Jarrett Allen, and Larry Nance Jr. is entrenched at power forward. One of them is going to have to come off of the bench to accommodate Mobley, and it's unclear who will be passing to him as third-year guard Collin Sexton has reportedly been shopped on the trade market as he has become eligible for a contract extension.
But, prior to this draft, Cleveland hadn't identified a surefire franchise player. Mobley has the talent to be that player. The roster may need some work and the team may not have been competitive in recent years, but getting Mobley in the building could be the first step in the right direction for Cleveland as it attempts to finally return to the postseason.