Very few big men enter the NBA with as much promise as Anthony Davis, but in his first six games as a professional, Evan Mobley has actually exceeded the rookie version of Davis statistically. He is averaging more points (15.3 to 13.5), assists (2.3 to 1) and steals (1.3 to 1.2) on a higher field goal percentage (53 percent to 51.6) than Davis did in his first season in New Orleans, and on Friday, the two met on an NBA floor for the first time.
Davis won the game as his Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers, 113-101, but Mobley again won out statistically. He scored 23 points to Davis’ 15 and did so on a very impressive 10-of-16 shooting from the field. Mobley’s front-court mate, Jarrett Allen, had a minus-23 plus-minus in the game. Mobley was a neutral zero. Davis is the seasoned veteran, and as he plays for an immediate championship contender, he entered the game with a major advantage, but Mobley more than held his own, and Davis blessed the performance with comparisons to his own younger self following the victory.
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“This is my first time seeing him play, to be honest. He’s probably the same size I was coming into the league,” Davis told reporters. “Pretty skinny. Elite shot-blocker. Lob threat. Kind of has some of the same things I had when I was coming into the league. But probably shot it a little bit better than me.
“His game is going to progress,” Davis continued. “He’s going to keep getting better and better. You see the potential to be a three-level scorer, watching film on him a little before the game. I seen him shoot the 3. He hit one tonight. I seen him hit the midrange and floaters. He’d go to the post a lot in the game I’ve watched. He has the potential to be very good. It takes time. But I don’t really compare myself to anybody.”
Davis wasn’t the only Lakers star to gush over Mobley. Former Cavalier LeBron James was smitten as well, saying that Mobley is going to be a “damn good basketball player in this league.” Such praise is well deserved. Big men rarely jump into the league at such a high level. Mobley isn’t just putting up numbers. He’s been perhaps the best overall player on a surprisingly competitive Cavaliers team. Centers typically take years to understand the finer points of playing defense in the NBA. Mobley hasn’t even been in the NBA for two weeks and he already looks like a future Defensive Player of the Year.
Comparisons to Davis, in general, are rare. He was a preordained No. 1 overall pick, a freak of nature whose seven-inch growth spurt in a single year of high school basketball created a player with the ball skills and basketball IQ of a guard but the physicality and size of a big man. It took some incredibly unique circumstances to create the first version of Davis. Now, it seems as though a second one might be developing. Mobley has a long way to go before he reaches Davis’ level, but if Davis himself is to be believed, Mobley is certainly on the right track.