Heading into the 2021 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers only had one draft pick, and that would be the only action the Cavs would see in a night filled with spectacular trades and big draft moves.
As they are no strangers to the lottery unless LeBron James is wearing their jersey, Cleveland once again held a top-five pick in the draft, slotting in at #3 after the Detroit Pistons at #1 and the Houston Rockets at #2.
This is their highest selection since they had the first overall pick in 2014, in which they chose Andrew Wiggins and immediately flipped him to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love.
Prior to that, they also held the #1 overall pick when they drafted all-time bust Anthony Bennett in 2013 and again when they drafted now superstar Kyrie Irving out of Duke in 2011. Obviously, there was LeBron as well in 2003, so the Cavaliers have had relatively good success when choosing high in the draft.
With the 3rd Pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers select…
The first two picks played out as expected. All-American and consensus-best player in the draft Cade Cunningham out of Oklahoma State went No. 1 to the Detroit Pistons, and directly following him, the Houston Rockets selected G League Ignite guard Jalen Green.
That left the Cavs with a choice between Villanova star guard Jalen Suggs or USC big man Evan Mobley, and with an established backcourt of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, the choice became quite obvious.
The Cavaliers selected Evan Mobley, and there is not much to complain about when looking at what Mobley did in his freshman season at USC. Mobley was spectacular in the Pac-12 last season, averaging 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks per game for the Trojans. He was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year and an All-American on his way to leading the Trojans to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
He will now be a part of the rebuild that has been in the making for the Cavaliers ever since the departure of LeBron James.
Cleveland has not made the playoffs since 2018 when LeBron James left, and they missed the playoffs in each of the four years he spent with the Miami Heat. Add in five years before James was drafted, and you come out with the Cavaliers missing the playoffs in their last 12 seasons without James on the roster.
For a team that has had that much failure without LeBron, the front office has shown an immense amount of patience in attempting to lift the Cavaliers out of those struggles, but they seem to be more urgent this time around.
Collin Sexton has been rumored in trade talks since the start of the offseason, but with the numbers he put up for the Cavaliers last season, there is reason to believe those huge improvements can be made alongside the new addition of Mobley and returning young stars such as Darius Garland and Isaac Okoro.
There are still some issues that the Cavaliers have to address this offseason. Starting center Jarrett Allen is a restricted free agent and is in line to get a huge pay upgrade after solid seasons in Brooklyn and Cleveland.
A lineup that features Mobley and Allen would create a ton of problems for opposing teams in the paint. Mobley is agile enough to switch and guard players on the wing and perimeter but also large and long enough to hold his own in the paint. At 7 feet tall, his size will add to an otherwise small Cavaliers team.
Offensively, Mobley is dynamic from nearly every inch of the court. He shot 30.8% from the three-point line in his freshman season, but with a clean shooting form, there is lots of room for improvement. He also uses his long frame and quickness to his advantage when driving towards the rim against slower defenders.
After his selection, Mobley envisioned what his plans and goals are for the upcoming season.
“I’m here to show everyone what I have. Hopefully, be Rookie of the Year. Rookie of the Month as many times as I can,” Mobley said. “That’s what I’m trying to bring to the team. I’m trying to be everything.”
Kolby Altman, the General Manager of the Cavs, was ecstatic to be able to draft such a versatile talent like Mobley.
“We were able to draft a transformative talent, whose versatility, athleticism, and physical gifts are qualities we covet in a player. Evan Mobley checks each of those boxes,” Altman said.
With a young lineup in Cleveland that could potentially feature a starting five of Sexton, Garland, Okoro, Mobley, and Allen, I have faith that this team can turn it around in the years to come.
Final Grade: A