Early returns from the 2021 NBA Draft class suggest that it has a chance to be one of the best that the league has ever seen. In order to stand out in such a crowd, you have to be nothing short of special.
Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley is special, earning him the distinction of Sporting News’ Rookie of the Year, as voted upon by over a dozen members of our Global NBA staff at the end of the regular season. Selected third overall in 2021, Mobley quickly made his presence felt in Cleveland, doing his part to lead the franchise to a 44-38 record with averages of 15.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.7 blocks per game.
Prior to Mobley, only seven rookies in the NBA’s 75-year history have averaged 15 or more points, eight or more rebounds, two or more assists and more than 1.5 blocks per game. All but two were named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year. Whether or not Mobley earns the NBA’s honor remains to be seen, but if SN’s vote is any indicator, it will be a tight battle between him and Raptors standout rookie Scottie Barnes.
For full voting transparency, Barnes earned seven first-place votes to Mobley’s six, but Mobley edged Barnes by two total points in the final tally. The reason? Barnes, who finished second in SN’s vote, earned one third-place vote while no voter placed Mobley lower than second. That proved to be the difference between a tie and Mobley winning outright. As a voter that placed Barnes first, there really isn’t a wrong answer, but here’s why Mobley is a worthy choice for Rookie of the Year.