Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be taking a look at some of Southern California’s top high school basketball prospects from a scouting perspective. My first subject? The top-ranked class of 2020 prospect in the country, Rancho Christian’s Evan Mobley.
A long, agile 7-footer with significant guard skills, Mobley is as safe a bet to make the NBA as anybody in high school hoops right now. The USC commit has drawn comparisons ranging from Tyson Chandler to Giannis Antetokounmpo to Kevin Durant for his almost never-before-seen combination of size, athleticism, and intriguing skill. He is currently considered a likely top-5 or top-10 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Rare physical specimen
Mobley is listed at 7-foot, 205 pounds, with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and reportedly a 40-inch vertical leap[. I haven’t seen him get up to 40 inches, which would essentially put his entire head above the rim, but I wouldn’t doubt that his vert is at least close, and maybe even the full 40.
Mobley passes the eye-test. His length and athleticism make him a prototypical center prospect at the NBA level assuming he adds quite a bit of muscle. He takes pride in defending the paint and turning away some of the best slashers in the country. Modern NBA centers, unlike pivots of the past, are asked defensively to both protect the rim and guard both stretch-bigs and pick-and-rolls in space. He fits the mold.
In fact, Mobley not only holds his own 30-feet from the basket, but wreaks havoc out there. Coach Ray Barefield has made the gutsy move of running a halfcourt 1-2-2 trap with Mobley as the head of the snake. I’ve never seen anything like it. He is a tantalizing prospect on defense alone if he can put on at least 30 pounds before reaching his prime.
Needs to gain weight
If he’s really only 205, he’s certainly strong for someone that light at that height, but ideally, seven-foot centers are at least 240 so they can bang around inside. Mobley naturally has a narrow frame, which keeps him freakishly light on his feet, but also means he could probably never sniff 250 pounds without sacrificing mobility. He does have the agility to defend full-time at power forward, and thus spend a little less time guarding in the post and crashing the boards. But I think because of his skill set on the other end of the court, he will be best-served as a center going forward–more on that in a bit.
As a rebounder, he could be a potential double-digits guy on a nightly basis if he can bulk up considerably. He’ll certainly be a solid one, but more strength could make him a standout rebounder at the NBA level. It will also take bulking up to extend his shot-blocking to the NBA because guards will just finish through him despite his length and timing if he remains so skinny for an NBA big man.
What makes Mobley different from other promising paint-anchoring bigs is his perimeter skill set on offense. However, that skill set does not revolve around shooting, like most perimeter bigs today.
Point guard in the body of a center
Mobley has both handles and court vision/floor awareness that, when combined with his quickness, make him a nearly unparalleled prospect in basketball history. That is where the Giannis/KD comparisons come in. He is that long and that quick, and loves taking the ball coast-to-coast to find an open shooter. He doesn’t have the finishing skills of those NBA MVPs and I doubt that he ever will, but his ability to finish in traffic with either hand, in addition to an array of pump fakes and step-throughs, makes him a threat to take it all the way to the rim and convert there at every level of basketball.
He doesn’t get an assist in this clip, but the pressure he puts on a defense after securing a stop is on full display.
All these components are why it’s near-consensus that Mobley’s floor is as a decent NBA player for a long time. How high is his ceiling? It largely comes down to his jumper developing.
Those who have watched him many dozens of times might have seen enough to say that he’ll be a legitimate stretch-big going forward, even though I haven’t seen signs that say he’ll ever be a full-time threat from more than 17 feet out. Still, the fact that he’s more than comfortable facing up far from the basket is a very important sign.
He looked pretty smooth here from 14 feet over a defender.
He’s has shown flashes of a solid mid-range jumper, and I think he will get it down consistently. Kevin Durant was already a head-turning shooter by the time he was 18, which is why I don’t like that comparison–Mobley will never be a small forward, and would have to radically evolve as a shooting threat to even shine as a modern NBA power forward. That’s why I like him attacking mismatches off the dribble as a center.
And Mobley’s reputation is as a humble guy and a hard worker. He’s a strong competitor even though he has a very quiet demeanor. While I just don’t see him as a natural jump-shooter, I trust him to take that aspect of his game as far as it can go. Especially if it’s necessary to unlock him as a driver, very similar to what Blake Griffin had to do before surprising everyone and actually becoming a standout deep threat.
A college scout at a recent game said that his stock will be even higher in college when he’s unleashed by elite pick-and-roll point guards, which seems legit to me. For all Rancho’s truly outstanding guard play, Mobley does not get a ton of opportunities to attack openings in halfcourt sets when he’s not positioning himself for a lob behind a smaller defender. A great P&R point guard alone might put him in an opportunity to even blow away my expectations for him if he can get more looks at the rim without having to be a great jump-shooter.
Lastly, Mobley also has a post game that is more developed than just dunking and laying it in over smaller high school foes, as you can see in the mid-range clip above. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s able to occasionally punish a mismatch at higher levels, and maybe more if he adds weight.
My comparison: Thon Maker meets Bam Adebayo
Maker was hyped as a potential all-star with a very similar ceiling as how I’ve described Mobley. The two have a very similar physical profile as seven-footers with the quickness of wings. Maker showed significantly better perimeter scoring skills in high school than Mobley, but Mobley is a game-changing passer.
I think that when Mobley reaches the NBA, his background as a paint protector and play-finishing center will give him a steady baseline. Adebayo established that baseline and then shocked the world with playmaking skills to complement it. We already know Mobley has the playmaking skills, and if he can clean up around the rim consistently in all phases of the game like Adebayo does, his offensive gifts can shine in time. I think he will be a good NBA player on a similar trajectory, and perhaps a perennial all-star. If his perimeter skills evolve even more than expected, his upside is unfathomable.