Detroit Pistons draft preview: Freshman USC center, Evan Mobley

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Pistons have a long history of dominant centers, players who can grab rebounds seemingly whenever and from wherever they want. The Pistons appeared to be moving in a different direction, though, when they sent Andre Drummond to Cleveland and traded Christian Wood a few months later.

Part of the Draft-day trade involving Wood included the draft rights to Isaiah Stewart. Considered a reach at the time, Stewart turned out to be possibly the best rookie in the organization and became affectionately known around the city of Detroit as “Beef Stew.”

In fact, he led all league’s rookies in rebounds and blocks. He was particularly good at securing offensive rebounds to extend possessions. The Pistons had a dominant center once again.

Now, one season later, the Pistons will have another shot at an elite center by way of the Draft: freshman Evan Mobley from USC. A second-team All-American and Pac-12 player of the year, he is the top center in the Draft.

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The Detroit Pistons are one of three teams with the best odds for a top-4 pick. Evan Mobley has to be in consideration at that level.

Evan Mobley was one of the most dominant players in college basketball last season–on both ends of the court. His 16.4 points per game may seem unremarkable, but he creates so much more under the basket.

He is the latest in the trend of passing big men, who seem to have an innate eye for the open shooter. A dual-threat, he can post up any single defender but find the open man when he is double-teamed. At 210 pounds, he could be considered slight for his 7’0″ frame; when he puts on even a little more bulk, he will be that much more difficult to stop.

His defensive mind, though, pushes him into the elite level. He was sixth in the country in total rebounds (286), with the vast majority coming on the defensive end. He was second in the country in blocks (95). No one was as effective as Mobley on both sides of the court.

For instance, in terms of win shares, a stat that attempts to combine all outputs into team contribution, he was in the top-five in both offensive and defensive categories. Furthermore, he did it all without missing a game and logging the third-most minutes.

Despite the fact that he certainly has All-Star potential, Mobley is the only player in the top four who may give the Pistons some pause.

Of course, he is a dominant player, but Detroit does not have a need at the position at this time. Put another way; rather, they have greater needs just about everywhere else. With Stewart on a rookie deal and Mason Plumlee on the books for another two years, the Pistons might be better served going after some shooting or playmaking.

That said, the Detroit Pistons are not really in a place to be drafting by need rather than take the best player available, and very few players are going to be better than Evan Mobley in this class. Maybe Troy Weaver and company want to inject some competition in the center position. Or maybe they are looking past Plumlee’s contract and want to secure the centers of the future.

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On the other hand, the point could be moot, and another team drafts Mobley ahead of them. Whatever the case may be, the Pistons may prioritize someone in the backcourt instead.