It was maybe just the second-worst thing Kevin Durant did to the NBA when he called Krisaps Porzingis a basketball “unicorn” back in 2016. Since coining the term, countless prospects have been dubbed unicorns by overzealous analysts and media grifters.
Evan Mobley is showing the world that he is a unique prospect who can elevate the Cleveland Cavaliers back into playoff contention.
Remember Dragen Bender? Basketball unicorn. Lauri Markkanen? Another basketball unicorn. Marvin Bagley, Jaren Jackson, Mo Bamba, Bol Bol, James Wiseman? I think you get the point. Just about anyone who was over the size of 6’9″ and could dribble the ball or hit the rim on a 3-point shot was considered a unicorn.
For as out of control as some of the reactions have been with recent NBA Draft prospects — there is no denying Mobley is a truly rare player. Believe it or not, it is pretty tough to find seven-footers who can actually dribble the ball, make high-level passes and space the floor. Oh, and don’t forget his ability to protect the rim and move his feet on the perimeter.
These are not attributes we have to guess about Mobley. It is lazy to compare him to the likes of Wiseman, Bamba or Bender when they never came close to putting together a complete sample size like Mobley. Those players entered the league with gigantic question marks and potential limitations.
Mobley doesn’t have those same concerns. Aside from his frail frame, Mobley is primed for a star career in the NBA. He has a strong sample size of 33 collegiate games as the primary scorer on an otherwise lackluster USC team. As the main option, Mobley posted averages of 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.9 blocks, 2.4 assists and just 1.8 fouls. All the while, he shot 57.8 percent from the field, displayed a potent mid-range shot and even flashed his ability to step behind the 3-point line and knock down open looks.
While yes, other prospects before Mobley have been praised for all of the same things, none of them had the stats or game film to back it up. In fact, the only recent names who are truly comparable to Mobley’s collegiate career are Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns. That’s pretty good company.
You can look at a prospect like Mo Bamba and see he isn’t on the same level as Mobley. It is blatant in their movement how different they were heading into the NBA. Mobley is a fluid, natural decision-maker with smooth athleticism and jump shooting mechanics. Bamba is… well, just a tall guy who was more athletic than everyone else in college.
The Cavs’ social media team has been doing a fantastic job of building hype by posting short, yet sweet, clips of Mobley completing live-action passes to cutters and rolling hard to the rim for easy dunks. Combine this with Chris Fedor reporting that Mobley is “glowing” in Summer League thus far and I don’t see any reason not to be excited.
Of course, it is still important to be patient. Mobley isn’t even old enough to drink, let alone lead a lottery team back to the NBA Playoffs in just a year’s notice. In fact, this entire Cavaliers team is young with Jarrett Allen acting as their oldest projected starter at just 23 years of age.
It’s rare for extremely young teams to succeed in the NBA. Even so, this core of Mobley, Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro and Allen is an interesting one. They seemingly have enough complementary talents to cover each other’s weaknesses. The question is, how quickly can they piece it all together, if at all?
One thing is for sure. Mobley is the most intriguing rookie to join the franchise in quite some time. His versatile skill set is genuinely unique and can make him the cornerstone of a team that is only a few strokes of luck away from reaching the playoffs without LeBron James for the first time this century.
Mobley will compete in his first official game for the Cleveland Cavaliers on August 8 against the Houston Rockets in the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League. Hopefully, we get a glimpse of how special he is on the basketball floor.