In the latest edition of 'P.I. Pulse,' Pro Insight's Aneesh Namburi conducts a deep dive analysis on the top big man in the 2021 draft class, USC's Evan Mobley:
Evan Mobley is a 7-foot freshman center for the USC Trojans. A consensus top-5 recruit in the 2020 high school class, Mobley is having one of the most productive seasons from a freshman big in recent memory. The younger brother of sophomore teammate Isaiah and son of USC assistant coach Eric, Mobley came up through the esteemed Compton Magic AAU program. He is one of the best defensive big prospects possibly ever, while providing a plethora of modern offensive skills that will assuredly help him fit on any team. Below is an in-depth scouting report that covers every aspect of his game and how it translates to the NBA, where his strengths lie in addition to potential areas of improvement.
Date of Birth 06/18/2001
Weight 215 lbs.
Standing Reach 9'0"
Broke left foot and right wrist in HS
High: Perennial All-Star 2-way big. Offensive hub who impacts the game at a high level. Can run both sides of PnR at a high level: roll threat, playmaker, attacker, and pull-up shooting all present. Punishing shooter off catch, and a passable movement shooter. Adds enough strength to highly technical post game (w/ length) to give matchup problems to most bigs. Elite rim protector with added strength. Successful utilization in multiple PnR coverages. Proficient in team defense, specifically as a weak side rim protector. Real switch potential, essentially a five-position defender.
Median: Sub All-Star big. Vertical+screen threat in both half court and transition. Playmaker off the short roll. Ability to put the ball on the floor and create for himself+others, with occasional on-ball creation capabilities. Credible shooter off catch, with occasional movement capabilities. Good technique in the post, can take advantage of mismatches. Elite rim protector, but still rather slender. Proficient in team defense, specifically as a weak side rim protector. 3-4 position switch defender, struggles against quicker guards due to high hips. Might need some help on bigger centers.
Low: Starting level playmaking + D big. Vertical+screen threat in both half court and transition. Can make plays off the short roll, but not the quickest processor. Occasionally puts the ball on the floor. Ability to step out and make a 3 from standstill when defense leaves him open. Good technique when posting up, but lack of strength limits efficiency. Excellent rim protector. Good team defender, tendency to gamble a bit but tools help recovery. Real switch potential, will likely need to play the 4 against stronger bigs.
Elite physical measurements with height and wingspan. Will always be on the stringy-er side but enough core development and lower body mass should allow him to defend most bigs. Can play either the 4 or the 5. Outlier fluidity, coordination, and dexterity for position, likely a byproduct of his time as a guard before growing almost one full foot within one year during his middle school years. Moves really well laterally and has good hip flexibility despite having very high hips. His vertical is nothing outlandish, but his timing, length, and aggressiveness will mitigate weaknesses. Wingspan is between 7-foot-4 and 7-foot-5, helps him drop shots over defenders or reach up to alter shots/passes.
+4ish WS, which gives him the ability to get off tougher shots cause D cannot contest
High center of gravity/hips. Other attributes make up for it in HS, college but may not translate completely in NBA
Grew 11 inches in middle school. Helps explain his ball skills + coordination
Mobley is a skilled big who could turn into a secondary offensive hub. He offers a floor as a high power roll threat and finisher, due to his length, touch, and ability to get off the ground quickly. Mobley also makes plays from the short roll. He should have utility as a spacer, mostly showing flashes as a rhythm shooter off the catch this season, and has real potential to grow into a potent shooter due to his mechanics and touch indicators. Does a great job reading the floor, especially for a big at his age. Mobley has a unique handle for a big man, with the dexterity and coordination to put the ball on the deck from a variety of positions and create for himself and make positive plays for an offense. Has the ability to manipulate defenses with ball fakes, and his gravity when attacking helps. He has real potential as a screener both on and off the ball and could run some side PnR in a pinch down the road.
90/133 within restricted area this season, excellent touch around the rim with both hands
High level technical ability, utilizes fakes well
Understands angles/positioning in order in order to use bevy of finishing moves
Proficient rim runner in transition, extremely fluid/fast moving down the court
Can take mismatches (slower footed bigs) off the bounce, length to finish over stronger players
Elite vertical finisher in the half-court. Vertical numbers may not be elite, but gets off the ground very quickly
0.923 PPP on 39 jump shots in half court (46.2% EFG)
More potential than production thus far, but positive indicators + good touch
Lower body mechanics pretty solid in terms of technique. Only potential issue is with power transfer on the way up to apex
Super high release point. Combined with length, will likely be a very difficult shot to block
Footwork carries indicators for some level of movement shooting down the road. No guarantee, but is somewhat reasonable given footwork/set up
Exceptional handle for a big man, uncommon combination of dexterity, fluidity, and coordination
Able to attack, create advantages consistently off the bounce. Mostly one cut moves, but works when matched up mostly on bigs
Spin move a go-to
On Ball (Pick and Roll, Isolation, Post)
Occasionally initiates half-court at USC. More volume in HS and still successful
Ability to get downhill in inverted PnR’s, hit corner shooters off the dribble
With some harder passes has to jump stop and/or pivot
Some iso capabilities in mismatch situations
Strength should make him more efficient, especially when posting up smaller guards
Consistently able to beat defenders off the bounce in face-up situations
While lacking in strength, excellent screener (should become even better with more muscle)
High level ability/intelligence adjusting to creating advantage for ball handler (Ex. flipping hips, slipping vs. popping vs. rolling based on defensive coverages)
Post scoring mostly dependent on his length, variety of technical fakes
Off Ball (Catch and Shoot, Movement Shooting, Cutting)
1.000 PPP on 24 C&S possessions in half court (50% EFG)
1.000 on 40 spot-up possessions (51.5% EFG)
14 possessions no dribble jumper, 0.857 PPP (42.9% EFG)
Excellent transition player. Runs floor very fluid in transition, gazelle-like
1.167 PPP on 24 transition possessions (79.2% EFG)
Good operator as a driver off movement, tend to be lower as a shooter. Not sure he could translate into a movement shooter due to longer release + hip flexibility, but not out of the question based on overall fluidity
Decent cutter in previous situations, not much utility shown this season. 1.158 on 38 possessions as cutter (66.7% EFG)
Could have real utility as a spacer screening in the PnR, D would not be able to put two on ball handler due to shooting gravity
Excellent playmaker in the half court
Shown ability to make variety of reads from both short roll and post
Reads the floor very well for a freshman big
Not many crazy passes, makes it seem like he is a bit slower in terms of processing due to most passes being more of the fundamental variety
Utilizes head+ball fakes. Shoulder turn really sells it
Physical tools give him an immediate advantage, so not many bad decisions in terms of shot selection
Mobley is arguably the best defensive prospect since Anthony Davis. He is already an elite rim protector, with instinctual timing, very good length, and an innate ability to stay vertical despite very little core strength. Mobley also possesses the mobility to succeed as a prominent weak side shot blocker. Additionally, Mobley is a dynamic PnR defender, with the technique, physical tools, and short area quickness to master multiple coverages. He is especially proficient in drop coverage, where his length allows him to contest floaters while still dissuading shots around the hoop. Mobley is an excellent lateral mover, which in tandem with his size and length makes it tough for guards to get by him. However, his high center of gravity is limiting against shiftier guards, but he does about as good of a job defending these mismatches compared to other bigs with similarly high hips. Like many young bigs he has a tendency to struggle with positioning. Fortunately, Mobley has great instincts, and combined with the irrefutable physical tools, his mistakes are becoming less frequent. Now saving the big thing for last: his strength. Mobley is pretty weak for a traditional big, especially lacking in core strength as well as lower body stability. Even with added muscle, he will likely struggle against burlier centers in the post and on the boards, but his variety of skills allows him to slide over to the 4, if necessary. However, he should do just fine against most centers as he adds on to his frame, especially given the advantage he possesses in so many “modern basketball” areas.
On Ball (Isolation, Pick and Roll)
Will be a nuisance to go up against within position group
Length takes away potential scoring/passing opportunities, lateral movement allows him to contain face-up situations, can contest even some of the higher releases in the league
Stronger bigs will take advantage in the post, issue should mitigate with added strength
Probably will be guarding the screener in most PnR situations
Ability to play multiple PnR coverages
Short area quickness with feet, ability to take away shots at rim with the length to contest mid-range J’s + floaters, length + lateral fluidity to contain and recover or switch if needed
Has potential to become a full switch threat (or close to it) due to size, mobility, and ability to change directions at a basic level
Off Ball and Team Defense
Similar to most freshman big men, tendency to be out of position chasing turnovers
Unlike most freshman bigs, has unique instincts where he ends up making a play more often than not + recovery tools tend to cover his miscues
Length is a real off-ball deterrent, blocks passing/sight lanes for the offense
Real potential as an off-ball defensive playmaker, specifically as a shot-blocker
Length helps him alter passing lanes and get deflections
Other (Rim Protection, Rebounding, Switchability)
Elite shot blocking prospect, even better than his numbers indicate (9.1% BLK rate)
Exceptional timing + length combo
Very clearly deters offensive players from attempts at the rim
Does great job maintaining verticality, even against players who can dislodge him a bit
Probably does not hold in the NBA, will need more core strength
Slightly below average rebounding rate for positional role, but nothing too worrisome
Pairing with a traditional big/strong rebounding 4 probably ideal initially
Can guard all 5 positions and not be a disaster
Likely will struggle against quicker guards or stronger wings/bigs, especially early in career where strength is an issue
Mobley has been one of the most productive freshman bigs in history while boasting one of the most modern skill sets in recent memory, and has a firm floor of #3 in the 2021 draft. To start, Mobley is probably the best rim protecting prospect since Anthony Davis. His extendo-arm length and innate timing + verticality makes him a chore to finish over. Once he adds strength, it will be difficult to not see him as a top-3 rim deterrent. He has shown flashes in a multitude of pick-and-roll coverages, and his quick feet and lateral coordination makes those skills translatable to the NBA. Additionally, Mobley’s coordination and fluidity gives him the ability to eventually become a defender who can easily switch onto all five positions, a testament to his potential despite possessing high hips. Mobley has been relatively inconsistent as a team defender, but his overall instincts and tools help limit some of the mistakes that come with a young big. Mobley is a versatile threat with gravity as a roller and vertical spacer, the ability to pick apart defenses from the short roll, flash as a shooter, and even the potential to run different sets, whether it be inverted screens, DHO’s, or a big-big PnR. His ability as a passer/attacker from face-up and iso positions (elbow and post), could be special. Added strength could make him a dynamic post threat due to his fundamentals, array of counters, touch, passing chops, and almost unblockable release.