Kevin Garnett was a player like the league had never seen before. All Evan Mobley has showed thus far makes it believable that he is KG’s second coming.
Even outside of their skills, there is little that differentiates the two PFs. They were both drafted in the Top-5 to a small-market team, with a recent past filled with losing seasons, but which had a core ready for Playoff contention.
As we are about to see, when we dig into their on-court impact the similarities add-up in a heartbeat.
When Garnett joined the league, a big man who was a menace in the paint, to go along with guard skills and wing mobility on both sides of the ball was something out of a sci-fi movie. Whereas in the current NBA it is much more common to see big Forwards – as well as some Centers – able to handle the ball and shoot well from outside, it is still just as rare that they are able to also be that versatile in the defensive end.
Offensively, Mobley has enough strength and explosion to be a force inside, as well as an evolving low-post repertoire to go along with it. He has a smooth mid-range shot and a 3-point one not that far behind. That package allows him to punish smaller players inside, as well as take less mobile bigs outside of their comfort zone – when he forces them to defend his mid-range game, they are susceptible to fall victim of his above average handles and quickness for a PF/C.
Garnett had all of the above from his early days and steadily improved in each and every one of those skills to ascend to stardom. If the young fella can continue to evolve as his predecessor did, MVP level offense is a real possibility for his future.
Whereas early on both players showed plenty of promise on offense, it is on the defensive end in which they came in ready to dominate. Since their professional debut, both showed that they had a stellar Defensive IQ. They add to that an impressive length – at 7’0″ of height and with a 7’4″ wingspan – along with a Small Forward’s level of mobility.
This is the whole shebang that made KG a defensive anchor for all his teams, annihilating shots at the rim and shutting down smaller players in the perimeter. When Mobley adds a bit more experience to those natural skills, he will be an yearly contender for Defensive Player of the Year.
Whether you are a standard numbers type of person or an advanced stats geek, the resemblance between these two is eery.
Basically identical averages in traditional stats per 36 minutes. Averaging out the percentual difference between both players’ traditional stats, Mobley falls short of Garnett’s numbers by a razor thin margin of 3.04%.
The only sensible difference between them in these numbers is in the Steals department. That’s where KG was picking opponents’ pockets at a rate 30% higher than Evan.
True Shooting % (TS%) is what strikes me the most. These are big men who shoot a healthy dose of mid-to-long range shots and still manage to hit a TS% well above league average.
Following the Traditional Stats, the defensive advanced stats are extremely similar. KG and Mobley are equality elite on that end, whether you go by Defensive Win Shares (DWS) or by Defensive Box Plus/Minus (DBPM).
On offense is where their real difference is at. With almost the same Usage % (USG%), Evan is well behind The Big Ticket, netting less than half of Garnett’s numbers on Offensive Win Shares (OWS) and Offensive Box Plus/Minus (OBPM).
It is due to that offensive gap that their overall advanced stats are unbalanced. When we weight their differences in Player Efficiency Rating (PER), Win Shares per 48 Minutes (WS/48), Box Plus/Minus (BPM) and Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), Mobley falls behind KG at an average of 30% rate across those four major models.
How did KG evolve in his following season? All around his numbers increased – at an average of over 10% in Traditional Stats and at an over 47% jump in Advanced Stats.
Where he soared highest was in the offensive end – 39% increase in Assists per 36 Minutes, 56% increase in OWS, 136% increase in OBPM with only a 5.6% increase in USG%. What is more impressive is that he made these jumps on offense without impacting negatively his defense. In fact, he actually improved at an average rate of 14% in defensive numbers.
Time will tell how much Mobley’s development will keep him on track with Garnett’s career. The early signs of his sophomore season are pointing in the right direction. With his Cavs being one of the more interesting teams in the 2022-2023 Season, we will have plenty of opportunities to follow his quest to all-time greatness.