Two years after winning their first NBA championship, the Toronto Raptors found themselves hoping for the ping pong balls to bounce their way in the NBA draft lottery. Luckily, the draft gods smiled Toronto’s way and gifted them the no. 4 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. This brings us to Evan Mobley. Well, in a second.
Most mock drafts have penciled in Cade Cunningham to hear his name called first, with G-League Ignite guard Jalen Green, USC big man Evan Mobley, and Gonzaga point guard Jalen Suggs going from anywhere between second to fourth. The Raptors should cross their fingers that the Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers go with the two guards. It would probably be the best case scenario for them Toronto if Mobley somehow slips past two and three and falls onto their laps at no. 4.
Here are three reasons why the USC star would be a perfect fit for the Raptors in the 2021 NBA Draft:
1. Evan Mobley addresses a position of need
Mobley would instantly address the Raptors’ biggest position of need should he slip to 4th overall. Toronto’s most glaring weakness throughout the 2020-21 season was at center. After Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka left in the 2020 offseason, the Raps struggled with their big man rotation. Aron Baynes began the year as the starting center but eventually failed to earn a consistent role. They eventually settled with Montreal-native Khem Birch and he showed promise down the stretch through the second half of the season.
Oftentimes, they would slot either Pascal Siakam or Chris Boucher at the five, which made Toronto undersized especially against teams with heftier centers. Still, their lack of height didn’t prevent the Raptors from having one of the top inside defenses in the NBA. They may have finished just 15th in terms of defensive rating (per NBA.com) this past season, but they sure did hold down the fort inside the paint. As a team, Toronto finished 2nd in opponent points in the paint and 4th in blocked shots per game. Mobley should only fortify their interior defense even further.
In the event that either Suggs or Green falls to them, the Raptors would only add to their guard depth but will still need to find a big man to anchor the middle for them. That’s why Evan Mobley going to them at 4th should be Masai Ujiri’s dream scenario during the draft.
2. Defensive versatility
It’s no secret that defense was Mobley’s calling card in his one year at USC. Getting named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year shows just what kind of impact he can make on that end of the floor.
At 7-feet tall, Mobley’s obvious strength is his paint defense and rim protection. In 33 college games, the USC stud swatted away 95 shots, good for 2.9 per contest. Mobley should immediately be able to make his presence felt inside the lane as soon as he steps foot on an NBA floor.
As most NBA big men have learned, however, they can’t just be interior defenders. They also need to be versatile enough to defend the most utilized play in the NBA: the pick-and-roll. In his lone season with the Trojans, Mobley has shown that he is very much capable of doing just that. He makes good reads on when to drop or commit to the ballhandler and is also able to make quick recoveries to contest shots after getting beat initially.
Evan Mobley has also shown that he is capable of switching onto smaller guards. He utilizes his length well and his 7-foot-4 wingspan covers so much ground that makes it difficult for guards to get by him. Furthermore, his quick feet allows him to keep in step with guards and makes it difficult for them to beat him off the dribble.
3. Evan Mobley and Pascal Siakam could form a deadly frontcourt tandem
If the Raptors end up with Mobley, he and Pascal Siakam should be a pretty imposing tandem for Toronto up front. While both are lanky for their size, the length and athleticism should make up for what they give up in the muscle category.
Both big men are also versatile offensive players. Siakam is obviously more polished at this point, with his ability to play inside-out. Mobley, meanwhile, showcased in his one year at USC that he is capable of doing just the same. While his outside shot is still pretty shaky at this point, the 20-year old’s mechanics suggests he will eventually be able to stretch the floor as a consistent shooter from the perimeter.
Mobley’s athleticism allows him to drive the ball from the perimeter to the basket. He possesses a quick first step for a player his size and is a great finisher at the cup. Mobley has also shown promising chops as a playmaker and makes the right reads on the short roll to the basket.
In many ways, Evan Mobley is somewhat like a taller version of Pascal Siakam, perhaps with more upside as a post player and a defensive anchor due to his size and length. Having two multi-skilled big men will do wonders for the Raptors’ chances of getting back to playoff contention.