USC freshman Mobley headlines list of big men in NBA draft

Jul 26, 2021, 7:44 PM | Updated: Jul 27, 2021, 8:37 am

Evan Mobley made a quick impact with his athleticism and defense for Southern California, bringing the Trojans within a game of the Final Four.

He’s the headliner among the big men in the NBA draft, a position that includes Texas’ Kai Jones, Kentucky’s Isaiah Jackson, and international prospects Alperen Sengun and Usman Garuba.

Here’s a look at some of the top bigs:

EVAN MOBLEY

The 7-foot freshman looks likely to go in the top 3 with his two-way potential in a still-developing frame.

STRENGTHS: Mobley, 20, swept the Pac-12 honors for player of the year, defensive player of the year and freshman of the year. He has plenty of length with a 7-4 wingspan, helping him rank seventh nationally by blowing nearly 2.9 shots per game. He also showed the mobility to defend smaller players on switches, making him a potential disruptor beyond his ability to swat or alter shots. Mobley also had a strong NCAA Tournament, averaging 13.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 blocks as the Trojans reached a regional final for the first time in 20 years.

“I feel like my agility and length and defensive presence is my top main things that make me different,” Mobley said.

CONCERNS: Mobley is a lean 215 pounds, so he’ll need to add some bulk to handle physical and stronger NBA opponents. He’ll also need to continue expanding his shooting range after making 30% (12 of 40) of his 3-point tries.

KAI JONES

The 6-10 sophomore is a first-round prospect with length and perimeter skills.

STRENGTHS: Jones averaged 8.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in just 23 minutes per game as the top reserve for the Longhorns and the Big 12’s top sixth man. He also made 13 of 34 3-pointers (38.2%). Jones ranked ninth among prospects at the combine with a nearly 7-2 wingspan. Most importantly, he has the length and athleticism to be a versatile defender along with attacking the rim.

“Just being able to switch ball screens and playing drop coverages,” Jones said. “I have a pretty good knack for playing defense. I think that’s going to be essential for me getting on the floor as a rookie, and playing a lot of minutes as a rookie.”

CONCERNS: The 20-year-old is still developing his overall game. He reached double figures in scoring in just 15 of 53 career outings and had just one double-figure rebounding total in that time. He’ll also need to add strength to a frame that checked in a 221 pounds at the combine.

ISAIAH JACKSON

The 6-10 freshman offers high-end defensive potential as a first-round prospect.

STRENGTHS: The 19-year-old is a good athlete with the ability to run the court. He showed potential as a rebounder with seven games with at least 10, including 15 against LSU and 12 against both Kansas and Georgia Tech. And he thrived on the defensive end, ranking 15th nationally with 2.6 blocks per game – including eight against then-No. 7 Kansas for the most by a Wildcats player against an Associated Press top-10 opponent.

“I like to really key in on playing defense: blocking shots, that’s where I get my energy from, blocking a shot or getting a rebound or getting a steal,” Jackson said. “That’s where I get my fire from. I mean, it’s fun to me to do those things.”

CONCERNS: Jackson needs offensive development after averaging just 8.4 points with only eight double-digit scoring outputs in 25 games — though he was more assertive late by getting there in six of his last seven games. He’ll also need to add bulk after playing at 206 pounds last year.

OTHERS TO WATCH

— ALPEREN SENGUN: The 6-9, 240-pounder from Turkey, who turned 19 on Sunday, is a skilled big man with crafty throwback post moves and the nimble footwork. He was named MVP of the Turkish league last season and is a lottery prospect with major upside if he can expand his shooting range.

— USMAN GARUBA: The 6-8, 229-pound forward from Spain offers strong defensive potential as a first-round prospect, both with length to work around the paint but the athleticism to defend farther out if needed.

— DAY’RON SHARPE: The North Carolina freshman has a strong 6-11, 265-pound frame with the potential to be an elite rebounder with his high-motor game. The first-round prospect is also a surprisingly good passer.

— CHARLES BASSEY: The 6-11, 235-pound junior from Western Kentucky ranked as one of the nation’s best shot blockers (fourth at 3.1 per game) and rebounders (fifth at 11.6). That could make him a frontcourt asset for the right team, potentially late in the first round.

— NEEMIAS QUETA: The Utah State 7-footer could offer some second-round value with a 7-4 wingspan after ranking third nationally in blocked shots (3.3).

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USC freshman Mobley headlines list of big men in NBA draft