CLEVELAND — Editor's note: the Locked On Cavs podcast in the player above is from Oct. 25, 2021.
It’s still early on in Evan Mobley’s NBA career, but the rookie big man the Cavaliers drafted with the No. 3 overall pick from the University of Southern California is already receiving loads of praise from NBA analysts all over the country.
The upstart Cavs are off to a bit of a surprising 3-2 record through five games, with all three victories coming at the expense of teams that won at least one playoff series last spring, and in the case of the wins over the Atlanta Hawks and Los Angeles Clippers, teams that advanced to the conference finals. A big reason for the recent success is not only the defense the Cavs have been playing, but Mobley, who has been its anchor.
When Mobley is on the floor, the Cavaliers have a 99.7 defensive rating, slightly better than their ninth-place standing in the NBA at 102.8. He not only has routinely blocked shots (10 blocks in five games) but he has also begun to intimidate the thought of being challenged by opposing players in the paint. More impressively, he’s done it while staying out of foul trouble, averaging just 2.8 fouls committed per game.
The latest notable praise of Mobley came from The Ringer’s Bill Simmons on the most recent episode of his podcast, featuring The Ringer’s J. Kyle Mann.
“I believe in the Cavaliers,” Simmons said when announcing his biggest overreaction from the young season. “Sometimes you’re just kind of ready to be a .500 team, and I think they’re ready to be a .500 team, at least. Because Mobley seems like he’s in year three, even though he’s five games in. He really looks like, ‘oh it’s his third year.’ Like how [Kevin Garnett] in his third Timberwolves year. It’s like, ‘oh, he gets it.’
“He reminds me the most of Kevin Garnett of any guy that’s come into the league,” Simmons continued. “I’m just saying, the way he moves, how fluid he is, how easy it is for him to be in the right spots all the time. He just looks like one of those guys, there’s certain guys that come into the league and physically they just make sense.
Simmons and Mann made several comparisons to Garnett for Mobley, as well as other Hall of Fame or future Hall of Fame players including Anthony Davis and Hakeem Olajuwon.
“This is the kind of territory we’re talking about,” Simmons said. “It is completely improbable for a tall guy to come into the league with one year of college under his belt and be as good defensively and as an all-around player as this guy is already.”
So far this season, Mobley has averaged 13.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, and two blocks in 33.3 minutes per game.