INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) Evan Mobley didn’t visit Cleveland or hold a private workout for the Cavaliers before the NBA draft.
The Southern California center did, however, expect to be selected by them with the No. 3 overall pick.
»I’ve done a little homework on Cleveland the last couple of weeks,» Mobley said. »They’ve got a lot of really young, athletic guys – just like I am – so I thought I would fit right in.
»Now that I’m here, I’m excited to meet them all. We’re going to have a great dynamic duo with all my teammates.»
Mobley made his initial trip to Northeast Ohio on Friday, a day after being chosen by the Cavaliers. Detroit picked Cade Cunningham first and Houston tabbed Jalen Green second, allowing Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff to grab his top-rated player.
An athletic 7-footer with a 7-4 wingspan, Mobley earned Pac-12 Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in his lone college season. He averaged 16.4 points and 8.7 rebounds while shooting 57.8% from the field in 33 games.
»History shows us that size and skill always beats small and skill, and everything about Evan excites me,» Bickerstaff said. »Having a guy who is 7-feet tall and can defend, play-make and score, it gives you a ton of versatility as a coach. We just have to play to his strengths.»
General manager Koby Altman envisions Mobley playing alongside 6-11 Jarrett Allen and second-year pro Isaac Okoro in the frontcourt, giving the Cavaliers a tougher defensive presence behind undersized guards Collin Sexton and Darius Garland.
Cleveland went 22-50 last season, tying for the fourth-worst record in the NBA, and is 60-159 in three years since LeBron James exited in free agency to join the Lakers. It caught a break in the draft lottery by jumping over Orlando into the top three.
»At three, we were elated and Evan’s impact is going to be immediate,» Altman said. »We have some high goals in mind for this young group that is extremely talented. Add Isaac with Jarrett and Evan, and we’ve got a chance.»
Mobley was the driving force behind the Trojans reaching the Elite 8 in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001, but must add muscle to his lean, 215-pound frame to be dominant at the next level.
Altman hinted that the 20-year-old Californian is still growing, adding another layer of intrigue. Mobley’s ballhandling and passing ability have already been compared to perennial All-Star power forwards Anthony Davis and Chris Bosh.
»I played up (with older players) a lot when I was younger, so I had to be a guard most of the time,» Mobley said. »As I kept growing and growing, it just stayed with me to approach the game that way. I do know working with a weight coach can help me physically, and I plan on getting a lot stronger.»
Bickerstaff isn’t concerned with how quickly Mobley fills out, noting, »People can’t hit what they can’t touch. I love watching the passes he makes when he puts the ball on the floor, and I love that he takes pride in defense and making stops.»
Mobley will wear No. 4 with the Cavaliers, who are hosting the NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 20, 2022. He has publicly set a goal of making the Eastern Conference team and to »become Rookie of the Year or get a lot of Rookie of the Month awards this year.»
First on his agenda, though, is figuratively catching his breath. He caught an early flight from New York to Cleveland, then made stops at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse and the team’s suburban training facility while being interviewed multiple times en route.
»I saw both facilities and I loved it here,» Mobley said. »The past 12 hours have been crazy with a lot of celebrations and not a lot of sleep. I’m a mellow, chill guy, so that’s what I’d like to do for a little while.»
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