MILWAUKEE-EVAN MOBLEY Steps beyond the 3-point line to form a curtain for Donovan Mitchell, a two-man tandem that the Cleveland Cavaliers hope will carry them into the future.
The first quarter of the game with the Milwaukee Bucks — the first of the young Cavs’ two road tests against the veteran Bucks in November — and the pick-and-roll are perfectly executed. Mobley gives Mitchell an edge over Bucks guard Jevon Carter, and then the Cavs’ 2.5-metre player sprints towards the rim, with both Carter and Brook Lopez focusing on Mitchell.
A bouncing pass separates the defenders and adds momentum as Mobley moves towards the basket. The last obstacle in his path slips over him: Giannis Antetokounmpo.
But in this exchange, the 21-year-old beats the two-time MVP. Antetokounmpo’s attempt to help is too late, and when he jumps, Mobley throws a two-handed dunk.
Although Mobley and Cavaliers got an early advantage in this first game, the Bucks and Antetokounmpo won both games by 15 points each.
“They brought it to a level that we haven’t seen, that we haven’t experienced,” Mitchell said. Said. “This is playoff basketball.”
Despite losing both games to the Bucks, the Cavaliers started this season with a 15-9 start and are good for a third-place finish in the Eastern Conference with the fourth-best net rating in the NBA. But what sets the Bucks apart is the presence of Antetokounmpo. His transformation from a scrawny, little-known rookie to the league’s top player gave Milwaukee an edge and gave Cleveland a blueprint for what it wanted to do with Mobley as he and the Cavs challenged the Bucks for Eastern Conference domination.
WHEN GIANNIS ANTETOKUNMPO When he came to the league, he was far from the “Greek Freak” who won two MVP awards and Defensive Player of the Year and ended the Bucks’ 50-year championship starvation.
He was an 18-year-old, 1.80-foot, 190-pound boy who had just arrived from Greece before he became one of the best players of his generation. process.
After Mobley’s first encounter with Antetokounmpo last season, the Cavaliers showed him pictures of a young Antetokounmpo, and the message was clear.
“If you do these things, that’s the transformation you can make, and that’s the effect it has on your game,” Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff told ESPN. “It was a kind of window into the future for him.”
Bickerstaff was clear not to put too much pressure on Mobley. It wasn’t an expectation that Mobley would win multiple MVP awards or make a permanent All-Star debut. He established Antetokounmpo as the prototype for the modern NBA player and encouraged Mobley to use him as a template for what is possible for a player with a similar skill set and body type.
“[Mobley] Bickerstaff has a lot of respect for the players who are great at this game and are competitive enough to want to be better than them. But he also respects their journey and how they got there, and is not afraid to take things. from them. He is very proud to be himself. He doesn’t want to be the next Giannis or the next, he wants to be Evan Mobley. But he is willing to follow people’s commitments and meet and exceed their commitment in order to be at his best.”
Even Antetokounmpo admits that the Cavs’ mission is more complicated than telling Mobley to “go be like Giannis”.
“People in my body can’t move the way I do. I try to perfect it as much as I can because I understand that it’s something that makes a difference,” she said. “I understand the way I move, the physicality I bring into the game, it’s big. I’ve seen people before me like MJ, Kobe, KG, LeBron, Shaq, they all had to be physical. It wasn’t just skill, they were very physical players.”
Still, Mobley doesn’t get as far as Antetokounmpo did in the early stages of his career. The No. 3 recruit in the Class of 2020 was a full-time starter from Day 1 with the Number 3 in the general election and the Cavaliers in the 2021 audition. He averaged 15 points in his first season and finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting.
Antetokounmpo’s path to stardom was longer and more unlikely. He played in Greece’s minor league before being drafted 15th overall in 2013 and was relatively unknown to the NBA.
“I didn’t know who Giannis was until I became Giannis,” Mobley, who turned 12 a few days before Antetokounmpo was drafted, told ESPN.
In his second year in the NBA, Antetokounmpo was still an unfinished product at the stage Mobley was in now. At the age of 20, he averaged 12.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists for the Bucks squad with 41 wins. The body transformation that would take him from 190 pounds to 245 pounds (he also grew two inches, from 1.8 feet to 1.8 feet) had barely begun.
Antetokounmpo told ESPN, “I realized that I’m 18 and I need to get stronger to survive in this league.” “That would be my main focus when I went to the gym. I lifted my weights, tried to eat right, sleep right, and I could see my body changing as I got older. It didn’t just happen overnight.”
Since their first encounter last December, Mobley continues to scrutinize videos where he wants to learn from Antetokounmpo and the other tall men in the league, despite being focused on carving out his own path. But the way Antetokounmpo transforms her body remains modelling.
“He’s young, he’s still very young, he has a long way to go, but he works hard every day,” Cavs forward Dean Wade told ESPN. “It’s like a sponge. It absorbs everything, no matter what you say. It’s really exciting to watch him grow from last year to this year, it’s ridiculous. He’s built so much muscle.”
“Training against him every day sucks a bit because on defense he’s everywhere. He can be in the lane and still fight for a shot outside of the lane. It’s crazy. He’s the only one.”
Mobley came to the league listed at 215 pounds and is still listed at that weight. He said he gained some weight in the off-season, but admitted that it was difficult to keep the extra pounds once the games started.
“It takes a while for your body to get exactly where you want it, but you have to stick with it and keep working out,” Mobley said. “I felt like [the photos] they said more transitions were possible. It’s not like you’re always going to be a certain way. It just shows the possibility, if you stick to something and work on it, you can get where you want to go.”
Currently in his second season, Mobley is ahead of Antetokounmpo’s spot at this stage of his career. In 22 games in his second season, Mobley is one of the Cavs defense’s mainstays with Allen, averaging 15.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 2.3 assists, but he’s still trying to find his way through an offense past the All-Star backcourt. Mitchell and Darius Garland.
Still, the Cavs set no limits to Mobley’s future, and neither did the man Mobley used as his inspiration.
“It’s only a matter of time before he has a debut season and becomes one of the best strong forwards in the league,” Antetokounmpo said. “The kit and the body, the body are there. But he will work hard to put himself among the best in the league and it’s up to him whether he’ll take the challenge or not.”