The Cleveland Cavaliers lost to the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night, 117-102, for their second double-digit defeat against their division rival in the span of 10 days. They built a 16-point lead early, but collapsed in the second half, with a 35-10 third quarter for the Bucks being the turning point.
It was a rough night for most in Cavaliers jerseys, as the team shot just 39.1 percent from the field. Evan Mobley, in particular, struggled with the strength and physicality of Milwaukee's frontline. But despite finishing with eight points and eight rebounds on 2-of-12 from the field, the budding young star left an impression on Giannis Antetokounmpo.
"He can be better than me," Antetokounmpo said to Cleveland.com. "I don't see why he can't. It's up to him. I will always try to improve. Every day. But he has the skill set to be a very, very good player. He's 7-feet tall. He can move really well. He can shoot. He is very smart. As you said, he watches tapes of other players, which is very, very good for a young player. If he takes this seriously, he is going to be great.
"I didn't average what he is in my second season, so he's already ahead of me. It's in his hands. If he stays humble, continues to work hard, focuses on the game and shows love to the game of basketball, he is going to be really good."
The No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Mobley was the Rookie of the Year runner-up last season and is putting up 14.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, while shooting 54.1 percent from the field through 19 games in this campaign. His lanky frame and advanced defensive instincts have led to comparisons between him and a young Antetokounmpo.
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When the two teams played for the first time this season on Nov. 16, Cavaliers head coach JB Bickerstaff explained that the organization has even used Antetokounmpo as an example for Mobley, particularly in the way the two-time MVP has developed his body and gotten stronger throughout his career.
"Last year we actually talked to him about it, and showed him pictures of Giannis from his first year to now," Bickerstaff said. "Those were conversations that we had with him. I believe they are similar in that way. When I talk to Evan, we talk about when his legs and core catch up to his skill and talent, the problem that's going to present for defenses and opponents period."
Antetokounmpo is well on his way to becoming a top-10-15 player all-time, and no matter how hard Mobley works on his body, and how much he improves on both sides of the ball, he may never reach those levels; few players ever will. Still, it's clear Mobley is on the path to stardom.