CLEVELAND (AP) — Evan Mobley has set a lofty goal for his rookie season — All-Star.
“I’m trying to get everything,” he said.
No wonder the Cavaliers love him.
Desperate to add a player capable of rocketing them back into title contention, Cleveland selected the talented USC center with the No. 3 overall pick in the NBA draft on Thursday night.
After Detroit took Cade Cunningham first and Houston selected Jalen Green, the Cavs nabbed the 20-year-old Mobley, a skilled, athletic big man just tapping into his potential.
Cavs general manager Koby Altman said he was contacted by numerous teams interested in trading into the third spot to get Mobley, who only worked out for the Pistons and felt he should be the top pick.
Once Cleveland zeroed in on Mobley, nothing was going to change the team’s mind.
“We weren’t the only ones who wanted Evan,” Altman said. “We knew immediately when we jumped (in the draft lottery) that the level of interest (would grow) and the offers kept getting more and more compelling, but within those offers there was no Evan Mobley.
“When you have the ability to draft that level of a talent, a versatile, 7-foot, two-way player that has tremendous upside, that’s what you take. It’s a great day for the franchise.”
Mobley will join young guards Darius Garland, Collin Sexton, forward Isaac Okoro and center Jarrett Allen to give Cleveland a foundation to build from. The Cavs have been in disarray since LeBron James left as a free agent after the 2018 season.
There’s more reason for hope.
Altman said the Cavs are intrigued by Mobley’s ability at both ends of the floor. He’s been described as a unicorn because of his rare skill set.
“He’s seven feet and he might still be growing,” Altman said. “He has for a big man, incredible feet, so he can really sprint the floor and he can switch out and guard on the perimeter and he’s an incredible rim protector, so from a defensive standpoint, he’s really unique for a guy his size.
“And when you switch him to the offensive side, he’s extremely skilled. He can step out and shoot it. He can handle it, he was a guard coming up and had a growth spurt, so he has guard-like vision and I think one of the more underrated parts of his game is his passing.”
Altman said Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff is “salivating” at the options Mobley, who can play center or power forward, will give him.
The Cavs felt as if they were in a no-lose situation with the third pick, the highest they’ve selected since taking Andrew Wiggins first overall in 2014 and then trading to him to Minnesota in the deal for Kevin Love.
Although they didn’t get a chance to speak with Mobley or work him out before the draft, they felt they had enough information to take Mobley, who led the Trojans to the Elite 8 last season. He averaged 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.9 blocks and 2.4 assists
In his only college season, Mobley was named the Pac-12′s best player, top freshman and best defensive player.
The Cavs were busy in the final hours before they went on the clock, agreeing to acquire veteran point guard Ricky Rubio from Minnesota, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press.
Cleveland is sending small forward Taurean Prince, cash and a second-round pick in 2022 to the Timberwolves for the 30-year-old Rubio, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the NBA has to approve the swap.
The deal for Rubio came as he was in Tokyo playing for Spain’s Olympic team. He’ll give the Cavs a dependable backup at the point and a mentor for Garland and Sexton.
Cleveland had a disappointing injury-riddled 2021 season, which ended with the Cavs losing 16 of their last 18 games to finish 22-50. They were never really in the playoff chase, but the team came away feeling good about the development of some of its young players.
Now they’ve got another one in Mobley, who has been compared to a young Chris Bosh but wants to be his own man.
“A lot of people have been comparing me to Chris Bosh, Anthony Davis, Giannis, players like that,” he said on a Zoom call from New York. “I definitely just see a good amount of similarities between all of those players. But I feel like I’m my own player and I have my own tendencies, which makes me unique.”
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