Wizards

Does Evan Mobley of USC have a chance to go No. 1?

Wizards

The Washington Wizards are picking squarely in the middle of the first round of the 2021 NBA Draft. Whether Washington trades up, down or stays firm at No. 15, here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who the Wizards could consider selecting.

2021 NBA Draft Prospect Preview: Evan Mobley

School: USC

Position: Forward/Center

Age: 19 (turned 19 in June)

Height: 7-0

Weight: 215

Wingspan: 7-4

2020/21 stats: 33 G, 16.4 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2.4 apg, 0.8 spg, 2.9 bpg, 57.8 FG% (6.0/10.3), 30.0 3PT% (0.4/1.2), 69.4 FT%

Player comparison: Clint Capela, Jonathan Isaac

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 2nd, Sports Illustrated 2nd, Ringer 2nd, NBADraft.net 2nd, Bleacher Report 3rd

5 things to know:

-Mobley is the highest-ranked big man prospect in this draft. He spent one season at USC and swept just about every award he could win: conference player of the year, conference defensive player of the year, consensus All-American, etc. He was the best player on a Trojans team that made it to the Elite Eight before losing to Gonzaga.

-He is very agile for his size at 7-feet with good length. Mobley can run the floor, play above the rim and dart in and out of traffic in the midrange. He has the mobility of a slashing wing but at the size of a center. Mobley, though, will want to fill out his frame to get stronger around the rim. He's wiry and long, but could get pushed around by guys like Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

 

-Mobley is unique in part because of his versatility, but his standout skill is definitely shot-blocking. He averaged 2.9 blocks per game in college. His career-high was six blocks, which he had in three different games. He's got long arms plus the instincts and hand-eye coordination to match. Whether he becomes an All-Star will probably depend on his development as a scorer, but he seems like a safe bet to be a disruptor on defense. He can protect the rim, plus has the quickness and smarts to switch onto smaller players. He could be especially good at defending the pick-and-roll, a very valuable trait in today's NBA.

-He was a solid scorer in college, getting most of his points around the rim and in the midrange. Mobley has excellent touch on hookshots and quick jumpers in the paint. He's also an adept ball-handler and passer for his size, someone who can facilitate ball movement and help create open shots for others, especially in the midrange. Mobley had an okay three-point shot in college, but definitely stands to improve that area of his game. Until he does, he would ideally play alongside another big man who can shoot.

-Mobley's father, Eric, played Division I college basketball and professionally overseas. His brother, Isaiah, plays at USC and was Evan's teammate. He was a McDonald's All-American and 5-star recruit coming out of high school in 2019.

Fit in NBA:

Given very few teams have a shot-blocking big man with the upside and athleticism of Mobley, he would be a good fit for most. Even the Houston Rockets, who have Christian Wood, could justify taking him, especially now that Wood has become a reliable outside shooter. Imagine driving to the rim with those two ready to pounce.

The best fit among the teams at the top would probably be the Detroit Pistons, who had the second-worst record in the league and are tied for the best lottery odds. They have talent at a few different positions including at point guard with Killian Hayes, on the wing with Saddiq Bey and down low with Isaiah Stewart. Detroit was not a good team this season, but did have an average defense. Add a big-time rim-protector and maybe they can become elite on that end of the floor first before building out their offense.

Orlando and Cleveland would also make sense for Mobley. Both teams have loaded up on guards in recent drafts and could use a player like him to balance things out. The Thunder are just starting their rebuild and don't have many blue chips, but judging by the lineups they rolled out this season, they would like his length. The prospect of him developing alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is enticing.

Wherever he goes, Mobley is likely to be an early contributor on defense who will take some time to round out his offensive game. If developed correctly, he could be a special player because of his athleticism and basketball IQ.