Scouting Report & Film Review: Evan Mobley

Evan Mobley is the most well-rounded big man in this draft and yet another step in the evolution of the modern center.

Strengths: Rebounding, fluid athlete, shot-blocking, scoring versatility, decision making

Weaknesses: Consistent defensive awareness, controlling the post, strength

Draft Range: Top 3

Ranking: #2

Shades Of: Chris Bosh, Rasheed Wallace

Best Team Fits: Anywhere

Since Evan Mobley broke onto the scene, it has been pretty apparent that he belongs in the NBA. Despite his quiet, humble demeanor, Mobley is an absolute killer on the basketball court. He won't demonstrably block shots or regularly take over games as a scoring monster. Still, he will execute every possession at an impossibly high level, making him one of the most exciting prospects in the 2021 NBA Draft.

Mobley has unique physical tools for a center. He has the height and length of most traditional centers, along with the fluidity and gracefulness of a wing. He is the closest prospect to a unicorn in this draft.

To call Mobley just a center, though, drastically diminishes his overall impact. Mobley doesn't have an outside shot (yet) that we see from most "modern" centers like Karl-Anthony Towns or Anthony Davis, but he does have similar floor vision, scoring versatility, and ball skills. Mobley will likely develop a diversified offensive tool belt that would make Batman envious, but his defense is undeniable and inevitable.

Defense

To call Mobley one of the most gifted defenders in recent years is far from an overstatement. There have better defenders, but few entered the NBA with the same expectations as a franchise cornerstone that will accompany Mobley.

Mobley's combination of length, athleticism, and instincts makes him an exceptional defender in all areas of the floor. He is an excellent shot-blocker who uses verticality and doesn't bite on shot fakes. He has the footwork and athleticism to also switch on the perimeter.

Mobley will occasionally lose his man when they run off screens, but that will likely rarely be an issue in the NBA. The only legitimate criticism and concern with Mobley's defense is his lack of strength. This concern may seem trite as all teenagers lack the strength of their soon-to-be NBA peers. However, Mobley's frame doesn't inherently suggest that he will experience a significant body transformation.

Mobley has long legs, high hips, a narrow torso, and lanky arms. I promise he isn't the stick figure I'm painting him out as. Mobley will undoubtedly get stronger to some degree as his career progresses, but adding too much muscle too quickly could induce numerous injuries that could be otherwise easily avoided.

I fully expect Mobley to reach the levels of an All-NBA level defender, but he will struggle early in his career because of this lack of strength. As we can see below, Mobley gets buried under the basket by a fellow freshman.

Even though Mobley was easily moved in the post, he didn't shy away from contact, which is incredibly encouraging. Mobley fought in the post and welcomed contact when it came. He does a great job of compensating for his lack of strength by using his length.

Mobley will struggle to defend traditional post-ups early in his career because he lacks the bulk to do so. Once you move on from that and remember that NBA offenses are ever-expanding and more creative than ever, there isn't an aspect of Mobley's defense to dislike.

NBA offenses are constantly looking to force switches and exploit big men in space. Immobile bigs that get drawn away from the rim flounder while bigs who are confused in drop coverage are made to look like fools. Mobley is already more comfortable defending the pick-and-roll than most NBA big men.

In the below clip, Mobley makes drop coverage look simplistic. Arizona's spacing on this play is rather atrocious, but Mobley's patience and length eliminate any scoring possibilities. Mobley denies passing lanes and simply ushers the ball-handler to the baseline before swallowing up the half-hearted shot attempt.

Here, Mobley shows off his tremendous positioning and awareness. Mobley positions himself under the basket but opens his body and barely looks at the ball-handler, so he always knows where his man is. As his man sets the screen, Mobley drops to deny the lane before promptly recovering to the shooter.

Many NBA centers can excel in drop pick-and-roll coverage. What sets Mobley apart, though, is his ability to recover to perimeter shooters. His reactions, footwork, and instincts are ideal for a defensive linchpin.

Again, Mobley drops after his man sets the screen and invites the drive. Mobley absorbs the contact and recovers to the perimeter. Unlike many young centers, Mobley closes out under control with perfect footwork. By not crossing his feet or having a narrow stance, Mobley stays on balance to deny the drive attempt and contest the pull-up jumper.

Even more impressive than his pick-and-roll defense, though, is Mobley's off-ball defense. His basketball IQ is through the roof, and his ability to identify rotations is second to none. He rarely misses rotations and can help cover up an error his teammates may make.

Here, Mobley is put into a Horns set that is run to the other side of the floor. As the ball-handler dribbles left off the screen, it is incredibly tempting for most defenders to stay with their man at the top of the arc. Instead, Mobley goes with the roller since he knows his brother is hedging the screen. This decision denies Arizona an easy layup. On its own, this is already a quality defensive possession from Mobley. What makes him an elite defender, though, is how he immediately recovers under control to his man to contest what should be an open three.

Again, Mobley shows off his unselfish and brilliant defensive tendencies. The ball-handler denies the screen, which initiates the double-team from USC and gives the screener a free roll to the rim. Mobley rotates to tag the roller, which helps deter any dump-off pass. Mobley begins his closeout to his original man the second the ball-handler turns his back to the rim. A bobble of the ball assists Mobley, but he is under control. The ball-handler sees time is running down, so he instinctually attacks the opposing big man off the dribble. Unfortunately for him, Mobley moves his feet to cut off the drive and heavily contests the shot.

Mobley has the intelligence and physical tools to build an NBA defense around. His timing on blocks is impeccable, he can move his feet in space, and his rotations are on point. He can play alongside another big man or be the primary rim protector. The upside for Mobley's defense is limitless, and it should be no surprise when he's selected to multiple All-NBA Defensive teams.

Interior Offense

NBA offenses are relentlessly expanding. While it is important for centers not to be bound to the post, they still need to be a scoring threat down low. Whether it is catching lobs, creating magic in the post, or being a menace on the boards, interior scoring is still vital for the modern center.

This season, Mobley was wildly inconsistent with his interior effectiveness. One area he found tremendous success, though, was on offensive rebounds. Mobley naturally has great rebounding instincts along with tremendous length. This combination led to Mobley constantly keeping possessions alive and punishing defenses on second-chance points. On offensive rebounds, Mobley scored 1.37 points per possession (PPP) which ranked in the 85th percentile, per Synergy. Mobley has excellent timing, tracking instincts, and bounce, which will help him create easy points off of misses.

Mobley's interior scoring issues surface with his post-up game. Scoring only 0.712 PPP (29th percentile) is far from ideal production for the draft's top-ranked center. Mobley's length and mobility should make him at least competent in the post, but he struggled mightily this season.

A significant reason for Mobley's struggles was his inability to establish a deep post position. Mobley's lack of girth and lower body strength made it easy for opponents to deny entry passes or simply move him off the block. Mobley's high hips make it easy for defenders to get lower than him and dislodge him from his spot. Additionally, Mobley doesn't have the upper body strength to use his off arm to shield the defender from fronting him. Like his defense, Mobley's lack of strength will be a significant hurdle early in his career.

Besides struggling to establish position, Mobley also struggles to finish through contact. There are times where he plays smaller than he is when defenders swarm him. It is not difficult for defenders to bump him off his path, and disrupting his balance on drives and shots is simple work for the defense.

Physical NBA defenders will give Mobley fits early in his career; however, I am optimistic that this won't be a long-term issue for Mobley. My reasoning is that Mobley doesn't shy away from contact. He embraces it and even seeks it out at times. Due to his slender frame, he is still significantly affected by it, but I would be more worried if he shied away from it or was mentally affected by it. Adding strength and muscle is something every NBA franchise expects to do with young players, so it isn't an impossible task. Changing a player's mental makeup, on the other hand, is a much more arduous endeavor.

Below, Mobley backs down another young center and handles the physicality well. The defender is constantly leaning on Mobley, but Mobley gets in a low stance to hold his post position. Mobley uses a strong crab dribble into a hop step to get into the lane. Despite the constant chest bumps and excessive contact on the arms, Mobley finishes through contact.

Again, Mobley is decisive and strong with his decision-making. This time, though, Mobley uses his mobility to create the interior dunk. Mobley initially does an excellent job of stopping on a dime as he receives the pass in the lane to avoid a garbage charge call that college refs are obsessed with making. Instead of initiating a post-up, Mobley takes a one-dribble hop step around his defender to get to the block. This move forces the defender on the opposite block to rotate. Mobley dispatches both defenders with a shot fake before finishing with the dunk.

Despite struggling with physicality down low, Mobley does have some craft to his interior scoring game. As we saw above, he can punish defenders when put in a bit of space or on the move. His lateral mobility covers tremendous amounts of space and is a tool that few defenders can counter. A simple way that USC got Mobley the ball in space attacking the rim was through the pick-and-roll. Overall, Mobley scored 1.089 PPP (65th percentile) as the roll man and 1.273 PPP (75th percentile) when he slipped the screen.

Here, USC does a great job of getting Mobley downhill in space by emptying the paint and running the pick-and-roll. Mobley times his slip perfectly as he waits for the ball-handler to take his first dribble. The on-ball defender goes with the ball-handler since a screen doesn't impede him, and Mobley's defender goes to hard-hedge as he expects his teammate to get hung up on the screen. Instead, Mobley slips to the rim, uses his excellent body control to avoid the weakside rotation, and finishes with an easy layup.

With NBA spacing, Mobley has the potential to thrive as a roll-man. Weakside rotations won't always be that late, but he also won't have to worry about clogged paints and horrendous spacing.

Even though Mobley generally struggled with his post-up game, there were flashes of success when he was quick and deliberate. Below, Mobley quickly gets into his post-up, and the entry pass comes before the defender can move him off the spot. Mobley knows that his defender is stronger, so instead of attempting a futile back down, Mobley quickly turns over his right shoulder, fades towards the baseline, and knocks down a jumper that the defender has zero chance of contesting.

This is an NBA-caliber post move and highlights Mobley's understanding of his situation. It is also a promising sign for his continued shooting development. Mobley will have very little success with a traditional post-up game, but if he is put in space, on the move, or quick with his decisions, Mobley has the tools to be a quality interior scorer.

Perimeter Scoring

Big men utterly devoid of perimeter skills are rapidly going extinct. Versatility is king in the NBA, and while Mobley wasn't elite from outside, he showed more than enough to inspire what he could develop into.

Besides having the grace and fluidity of a wing, Mobley also has excellent ball skills. In isolation, Mobley scored an impressive 0.914 PPP (72nd percentile). He uses his length to finish around or over defenders. He also constantly puts himself in advantageous positions by manipulating his defender's momentum. It is a skill that few centers possess and something we typically see from primary initiators. Mobley can spin against his defender's momentum or utilize change-of-pace dribbling to put them off balance. Once Mobley gets a sliver of space, defenders can't recover to contest because of his length.

Mobley's ability to attack off the bounce is impressive for his size and position. It will create a variety of options for his NBA team's offense. Besides getting to the rim off the bounce, Mobley has also shown promise shooting off the dribble. This season, Mobley scored 0.938 PPP shooting off the dribble (78th percentile). Additionally, Mobley scored 0.968 PPP (80th percentile) on jumpers within 17 feet and 1.04 PPP (90th percentile) on jumpers from 17 feet to the three-point line.

Below, Mobley shows his impressive composure and ability to improvise. Mobley uses a hard crossover to initiate the drive to his left. He nearly loses the ball after the help defender digs (a pretty common occurrence and area he needs to work on) but regathers the ball. Mobley doesn't panic and spins back over his left shoulder to knock down the mid-range fade-away jumper.

Mobley's ability to shoot on the move will be a significant part of his success in the future. Again, Mobley attacks to his left from the perimeter. He fakes a post-up attempt but instead steps through to his left and takes a mid-range jumper while falling to his left.

Mobley does an excellent job of staying centered when he shoots off the bounce. He doesn't let his momentum affect his mechanics and always seems to be well balanced. Mobley's ability to shoot on the move combined with his high release point will make his jumper nearly impossible to block.

Again, Mobley shows off his comfortability shooting on the move along with his spatial awareness. Mobley is set up on the free-throw line begging for the ball. As he receives the pass, he knows the interior defender will rotate up to him while his initial defender is working to recover after hedging the pick-and-roll. Instead of rising over two or three defenders, Mobley takes a one-dribble step-back to create a wide-open jumper.

Mobley has also shown some ability to shoot on the move off the catch. He won't (likely) be running off screens, but he has demonstrated the ability to relocate and shoot in transition. Mobley scored 1.25 PPP (68th percentile) when he shot off the catch when he was unguarded. This number fell to 0.75 PPP (26th percentile) when he was guarded, but I think it will improve as he gets more experience and is used in more creative ways.

Ideally, Mobley would have flared out to the corner in the above clip, but his movement and thought process are promising. Mobley could have easily stayed put in the dunker spot, but he created space for himself and the ball-handler by flaring out to the corner. Mobley will have to extend this past the arc in the NBA, but his intentions were correct.

Below, Mobley again shows his solid spatial recognition and has good intentions but floats inside the arc. After setting the screen, Mobley pops out to receive the pass. Instead of popping out for an elbow three, Mobley steps inside the arc for the open mid-range jumper. The result here is positive and the mechanics shooting off the catch while on the move are solid. The only issue is Mobley's habit of not staying outside the arc. This is a habit that NBA teams will drill out of him, so while I'm not worried about his outside shooting improving, it may take a little longer than preferred.

The next step Mobley must take with his scoring is refining his outside shot. This season, Mobley shot only 30 percent from three on a measly 40 attempts and scored 0.9 PPP (37th percentile) on three-pointers. I don't expect Mobley to morph into Karl-Anthony Towns, but both of those numbers must increase going forward.

The numbers on their own aren't impressive. They are below average and generally suggest that Mobley's outside shot is one that defenses don't have to respect. While the numbers say that, and it may be true early in his career, I fully expect Mobley to develop into a quality three-point shooter. His mechanics are smooth and consistent. He wasn't asked to do much of it at USC, so I tend to lean towards it being a comfort issue. It isn't a be-all-end-all skill for Mobley to develop, but given his mechanics and touch, I would be stunned if he never develops into a solid outside shooter.

The final area of perimeter scoring that Mobley has shown success in is as a pick-and-roll ball-handler. Mobley only ran 15 possessions as the pick-and-roll ball-handler, but the results were surprisingly delightful. In these possessions, Mobley scored 0.933 PPP (85th percentile).

Mobley does an excellent job of dribbling off the screen and then accelerating into space towards the rim. His momentum allows him to absorb the contact at the rim and finish, plus the foul.

Mobley will likely rarely see these types of possessions in the NBA. However, if he goes to a team and plays in a two-big lineup like in Minnesota or Houston, some fascinating pick-and-roll combinations could be run.

Floor Vision

Mobley's scoring versatility and upside are the most enticing part of his offensive game. However, what impressed me the most was Mobley's floor vision and decision-making. We are seeing more big men act as facilitators and initiators in the NBA, and Mobley has the potential to grow into a similar role. I don't expect him to be Nikola Jokic because no one ever has been before. I do, however, expect him to punish defenses with his passing when they make an error.

Mobley's understanding of the game and decision-making seems second nature to him. He has a great feel and understanding of the game. He rarely forces the issue and is intent on making the correct basketball play. This tendency can be frustrating when you want him to take over games but mislabeling him as a "passive" player is ridiculous.

The below play is a simple read but one that most big men aren't capable of making because they don't have Mobley's mobility and ability to create off the bounce. Mobley's scoring gravity sucks in the help side defender who foolishly helps off the strong side corner. Once Mobley sees the defender slide into the lane, he kicks out and makes a perfect pass to the shooting pocket.

I know, it isn't the jaw-dropping pass you were craving. What it was, though, was Mobley showing a great understanding of defensive positioning and floor spacing. With an NBA shooter, that is three points or a Mobley at-rim attempt because the help defender stays home on the shooter.

Don't worry; Mobley is fully capable of some creation brilliance, as you can see below.

Off-balance passes after changing the angle like this are impressive from guards but nearly unheard of from big men. Shooters will adore playing with Mobley because his floor vision and passing accuracy will immediately be towards the top of the list among big men.

Mobley's passing isn't only limited to drive-and-kicks. Here, Mobley makes a perfect skip out of the pick-and-roll. After slipping the screen, Mobley is scanning the floor before he comes down with the pass. This awareness allows him to anticipate the defender rotating to him while identifying what the baseline defenders are doing. Mobley sees the weakside defender help too far off the corner shooter, so he delivers a perfect skip pass to the corner shooter.

Mobley also proved to be a prolific passer out of the post where he generated 1.056 PPP on all of his passes out of the post (52nd percentile), 2.083 PPP on passes to cutters (100th percentile), and 0.762 PPP on passes to spot-up shooters (24th percentile) (USC shot only 34.8 percent on threes).

Here, Mobley's patience in the post creates a wide-open three. As Mobley spins baseline, the help defender sees that Mobley's back is turned and goes for a dig. Unfortunately for the defender, the dig attempt was mistimed as Mobley quickly spins back to the middle of the floor. Mobley sees the defender has lost his man and promptly kicks out to the shooter.

Earlier I touched on Mobley potentially playing in a two-big lineup. While this could create some interesting pick-and-roll combinations, it will also make some fascinating post-up opportunities given Mobley's interior passing chops. Mobley expertly passes around defenders when they double in the post. Even if it isn't in a two-big lineup, active cutters will frequently be rewarded when Mobley gets doubled in the post.

Outlook

Evan Mobley is an extraordinarily talented big man who should fall no lower than the third pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. His combination of fluidity, ball skills, floor awareness, and defensive versatility is a rare set of traits for a center. The label of "passive" is often misapplied and misinterpreted for Mobley making the correct basketball play.

While I generally hesitate to take centers early in the draft, Mobley is ranked second on my draft guide because he has a unique combination of skills and athleticism that could make him a franchise cornerstone. Seeing Mobley's name on an All-NBA Defensive team and multiple All-Star teams in the future is by no means out of the question. He needs to expand his shooting range and improve his lower body strength, but both of those are not only manageable but reasonable to expect improvement on.

Evan Mobley has the tools to be an All-NBA level center, and his versatility on both ends will make him useful in a myriad of lineups. In the worst-case scenario, Mobley never improves his lower body strength or shooting, making him a quality starter on an NBA team. Given Mobley's feel for the game and overall skill set, though, it would be shocking if he wasn't yet another poster boy of the ever-evolving NBA center.

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