If Evan Mobley had come into the league any other year, he just might have been the first pick. As it was, the 2021 NBA Draft was so loaded that he fell to No. 3 overall. That was great news for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were happy to pick up a potential franchise-changing big man.
Through the first few weeks of the season, that's exactly what Mobley looks like. His poise and defensive prowess are off the charts for a rookie, and have caught everyone's attention. So much so that other NBA coaches are reportedly jealous that they don't have the opportunity to work with him. Via Cleveland.com:
This is what Cleveland always envisioned with Garland. But to get the most out of his pick-and-roll wizardry, the front office needed to find him the right partner.
Tristan Thompson. John Henson. Ante Zizic. Andre Drummond. Larry Nance Jr. None of them were it. Not long term anyway. Allen and Mobley look the part. Especially Mobley, the rookie who plays beyond his years and has aroused hope for the franchise. A source said multiple coaches have recently expressed jealousy to Bickerstaff that he gets to coach the Rookie of the Year frontrunner.
First of all, it's just funny to imagine opposing coaches texting JB Bickerstaff or going up to him after a game and saying, essentially, "man I wish I could coach Mobley instead of these bums on my team." But more so than that, this is perhaps the highest compliment a young player can receive. You know you're special when you have coaches bypassing cliches and standard measures of praise.
All of it is well deserved for Mobley, who really has been incredible. There weren't many doubts about him coming into the league, but even his biggest believers could not have expected him to look so polished already. He's played 13 games and is already drawing comparisons to Kevin Garnett and Anthony Davis for the stuff he's doing on defense.
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Overall, he's averaging 15.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, and appears to have the Cavs ahead of schedule on their rebuild. There's a lot of basketball yet to be played, but they're 8-5 heading into Saturday's action, which is their best start since 2017 and has them in fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
It's pretty unlikely they'll finish the season that high in the standings, but for the first time since LeBron James left to go to the Los Angeles Lakers, there's a clear path forward in Cleveland. That's thanks in large part to Mobley.