Let’s play a quick game.
Here are some per-game stats along with some shooting percentages for three young players. One of these players is Evan Mobley. Do these capture the complete picture? Not remotely. But play along anyways…
- Player A: 19 yrs old, 13.5 pts, 8.2 reb, 1.0 ast, 1.8 blk, 1.2 stl, 52 FG%
- Player B: 19 yrs old, 10.4 pts, 6.3 reb, 1.8 ast, 1.6 blk, 1.1 stl, 49 FG%
- Player C: 20 yrs old, 13.8 pts, 8.6 reb, 2.2 ast, 2.0 blk, 1.2 stl, 50 FG%
OK, so there’s a lot you don’t know. How often do they get to the line? Do they shoot 3s? How tall are they? What role do they play? I get it.
MORE: Fantasy basketball rookie rankings for 2021-22
But if you had to pick one player based only on the information provided, who would you pick?
Before revealing the actual players, here is what members of our TSN staff said when justifying who they voted for in our NBA slack chat.
Jordan Greer (@jordangreer42): Choosing between Player A and Player B wasn’t difficult. Player A is a better scorer and rebounder, and he is more efficient with his shots. He has the advantage in every statistical category outside of assists per game, and the difference there is negligible. The decision came down to Player A vs. Player C. While the numbers are similar, I decided to roll with Player A because he is posting that line at a slightly younger age. Assuming he doesn’t get hurt and the franchise that acquired him doesn’t completely botch his development, that should be a quality player for a long time.
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): To the average person picking Player B may look nuts, but I’ve been playing this blind resume game long enough to know when I’m being tricked.
I’m anticipating that Player B, who has the worst stats of the bunch, started his career slowly and turned into an All-Star once he got going. Also if we’re being real is 10.4 points, 6.3 boards, 1.6 blocks and 1.1 steals really that bad for a 19-year-old? We’re kind of spoiled nowadays with the way some rookies come ready to produce in the league but to me, this isn’t a bad floor to start from for a young player. Throw in the fact that he shot 49.0 percent from the field as well and I’m comfortable with my choice.
Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): What are we even doing here? I’ll take the player with the higher numbers across the board. Is it an absolute wash with Player A? Yeah, for the most part. But all things being equal, give me Player C all day long. (I’d also like to mention that I’ll take all three because let’s be real, any young big putting up those numbers is destined for great things. This is where the rug gets pulled out and I blindly take Andrew Bynum over Hakeem Olajuwon, but it is what it is.)
Evan Mobley’s stats place him among the greats
OK, so I mentioned at the top that one of them was rookie sensation, Evan Mobley. And yes, he is absolutely a sensation.
But before we get into all of that, here is the reveal:
- Player A: Anthony Davis during his rookie season in 2012-13
- Player B: Kevin Garnett during his rookie season in 1995-96
- Player C: Evan Mobley during his rookie season right now
Both Davis and Garnett were recently named to the NBA’s all-time 75 greatest players ever. Garnett won an MVP and might be the most versatile forward of all time while Davis is in the thick of his prime and among the most dominant two-way bigs we’ve ever seen.
Both stepped into situations where they could play right away and both did so on teams with low expectations.
Similarly, Mobley walks into Cleveland without any real pressure to win right away. Playing alongside Jarrett Allen, Kevin Love and Lauri Markkanen gives Mobley a trio of unique veteran bigs to learn from while Darius Garland and Collin Sexton take a significant amount of pressure away on the offensive end.
The result? Plenty of minutes for Mobley to assert himself defensively and learn the ropes without the burden of carrying a team from Day 1. While the per-game stats compare favorably to both Davis and Garnett as rookies, they don’t begin to fully articulate the effortless impact on both ends of the floor.
Cleveland is already using the 20-year old as a defensive anchor, even running him atop a 3-2 zone and trusting his ability to communicate, rotate and closeout to shooters while also diving to protect the rim. Case in point? He leads the entire NBA by a wide margin in both shots contested and 3-pointers contested. In that regard, he looks like Davis who stepped into the NBA as a reigning college Defensive Player of the Year and became an All-NBA caliber defender almost instantly.
Offensively, Mobley isn’t shying away from contact in the paint and also looks at home facilitating from either elbow. His smooth passing is reminiscent of Garnett who used an ability to pull bigs out to 18 feet as a way to open up passing lanes and surgically attack the seams. Mobley isn’t yet Garnett in that regard but it’s not hard to imagine that evolution coming in the next two to three years.
Cleveland may not have had the first overall pick and top overall pick Cade Cunningham has yet to make his debut. But the early returns are promising and there’s every reason to believe that this may be just the beginning of an all-time great big man career.