“Situational Analysis” is a series of articles that seeks to examine the circumstances that most often influence an NBA prospect’s success. Each player will be scored on a scale from 1-10 in four different categories: NBA-specific skill(s), fatal flaw(s), collegiate/overseas/pre-NBA environment, and ideal NBA ecosystem.
Evan Mobley is a 20-year-old center from San Diego who averaged 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists in his freshman season for the University of Southern California Trojans. He is expected to be selected among the top-3 picks in the upcoming NBA Draft and as high as No. 2 overall. NBADraft.net currently has him projected at No. 2.
Chris Bosh has been making the rounds on the podcast circuit lately to promote his new book, “Letters to a Young Athlete.” His interviews, however, have inadvertently shaded my pre-draft evaluations of Evan Mobley.
Bosh is as candid and thoughtful as any recently retired player. He openly discusses the way the game has shifted in recent years and how it would alter his approach.
Beyond the superficial similarities (tall, extremely long, lean, graceful, exceptional touch), Mobley has the unique opportunity to thrive in an NBA that has shifted in his direction, while giving us a glimpse at what a young, bouncy Bosh might have done in a pace-and-space game, especially defensively.
Mobley’s full-body coordination stands out above all else. Scouts like to say “he moves like a guard” when a big man can run the floor well, but in Mobley’s case, he really does move like a guard – changing directions, slithering into open spaces, reacting to an opposing screen.
He isn’t as bulky as the traditional eraser at the rim, but Mobley’s timing and athleticism make him an elite rim protector (nearly 3 blocks per game) and he often turns those rejections into transition opportunities. And unlike typical rim protectors, he is more than quick enough to hold his own on the perimeter and guard well beyond the 3-point line. That kind of versatility will show its true value should Mobley find himself on a title contender playing late into the playoffs.
Mobley’s most optimistic developmental track puts him in position to be a game-changing two-way force for a team with title aspirations.
On a scale from 1-10, Mobley’s two-way potential rates at a 9.
For all the natural ability Mobley possesses, it’s easy to find tape of him drifting through serious chunks of action.
He is quite thin, and he will likely remain thin for much of his career – particularly when compared to the Joel Embiid/Nikola Jokic bruisers he will be asked to defend. While Mobley will be an A-level help-and-react defender, questions surround his ability to hang in the post against the league’s brutes. Sure, nobody hangs in against Embiid or Jokic – they’re MVP-caliber players for a reason – but even a level below features maulers like Jusuf Nurkic and Jonas Valanciunas.
Offensively, he has access to the full toolkit, but he often stays within the realm of short jump hooks and dunks. We have yet to see Mobley extend his jumper beyond the 3-point line with any kind of consistency (12-40 as a freshman at USC). If that part of his game comes around, Mobley becomes an All-NBA kind of player – protect the rim on one end, stretch the defense on the other.
Mobley has a very high floor, due to his incredible length and speed, but his ceiling will be determined entirely by his work ethic. How bad does he want it?
On a scale from 1 (not a concern) to 10 (serious hindrance), Mobley’s ability to put it all together for entire games is at an 8.
Like many top-5 projected draft picks, Mobley’s exceptional talent was clear the instant he stepped on the floor as a high schooler.
Evan and his brother, Isaiah, dominated the competition in California, with Evan winning the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year award twice. Only Jrue Holiday has ever pulled that off before. Once college coaches got a glimpse of him, the accolades started rolling in – all the stars from the recruiting services, all the recruiting letters from the blue-blood programs, all the hype.
Mobley chose USC and became the team’s best player right away. Even a drifting, occasionally detached Mobley was better than anyone else’s A-game. Mobley won every possible Pac-12 award (Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year), while earning second team All-America honors.
By all accounts, Mobley – an honor-roll student in high school – is a sharp, coachable kid with a solid attitude and should fit in seamlessly in any NBA locker room.
On a scale from 1-10, Mobley’s pre-NBA career rates at a 9.5.
Ideal NBA Ecosystem
Mobley will benefit a great deal if he can find himself a team with a veteran big man and a dialed-in coaching staff who can bring out the best parts of his game.
If Mobley spends the bulk of his rookie contract in a losing situation, he could pick up a lot of bad habits instead of developing into a more well-rounded basketball weapon.
While Mobley will certainly have some backers within the Detroit Pistons, it is much more likely that he will land with the Houston Rockets. After the disastrous James Harden situation, Mobley will likely serve as the first key piece in this squad’s from-the-ground-up rebuild. Can he play alongside Christian Wood – or, more accurately, can Wood play a complementary role alongside Mobley? Can they acquire a high-level playmaker who can help make Mobley’s life easier? Will Houston lottery representative Hakeem Olajuwon take Mobley under his wing? Does Mobley have a working knowledge of the Swishahouse catalogue? Only time will tell.
On a scale from 1-10, Mobley’s situational independence rates at a 7. Any team would be lucky to have him, but Mobley needs a bit more situational stability to realize his full potential. Houston is at least a year or two away from that kind of stability.