Evan Mobley leads a short list of the top big men in the 2021 NBA Draft

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Four big men behind Evan Mobley in the NBA Draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Finding the right big man prospect in the NBA is a tall task in front offices. Especially as the role of a power forward and center has changed over the years, sometimes teams are left finding a needle in a haystack. 

The development of big men from college to the NBA  is crucial. Through the years, there are the stars that stand out as no-brainers, such as Karl Anthony-Towns, Zion Williamson and DeAndre Ayton. Yet there are still question marks from some hyped big man prospects. James Wiseman, Mo Bamba, Jaxson Hayes - while still young in their careers - have yet to pan out. 

This year, Evan Mobley is the clear frontrunner of the power forward/center grouping. Behind him, there are slim pickings of options throughout the first round. 

1. Evan Mobley (USC)

Age: 19

Height: 7-0

Weight: 215

Wingspan: 7-4

2020/21 stats: 33 G, 16.4 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2.4 apg, 0.8 spg, 2.9 bpg, 57.8 FG% (6.0/10.3), 30.0 3PT% (0.4/1.2), 69.4 FT%

Mobley is an agile big man that thrived at USC, being the best player in the Pac-12 - offensively and defensively - while also being named a consensus All-American. All the fundamentals are there for the 7-footer, putting the ball on the floor, great footwork/ positioning and instincts. 

Signs point to him being able to make the immediate jump to the NBA and further grow his game as he develops into an NBA frame. Early on there will be clear dividends with his defensive game alone. 

The biggest thing missing is a consistent long-ball shot. He had limited attempts at USC (1.2 per game) and shot well enough for his position (30.0%) overall. His shooting form is solid and showed great potential to be able to spread the floor. There wasn't much pick-and-roll usage of him with the Trojans, that might remain to be seen. 

2. Kai Jones (Texas)

Age: 20

Height: 6-11

Weight: 221

Wingspan: 7-2

2020/21 stats: 26 G, 8.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.9 bpg, 58.0 FG% (3.2/5.5), 38.2 3PT% (0.5/1.3), 68.9 FT%

For Kai Jones, shooting and scoring in the open floor is his strength. There aren't many traditional post-ups in his game. Some work will need to be done on his shooting mechanics, but he's in the upper tier of athletes in this class and a lethal lob threat in transition. 

There are few players, especially bigs, that can legitimately guard all five positions on the floor. That will be Jones' biggest asset when starting his career. One of his best skills is the denial of penetration into the lane. Whether it's holding his ground with a forward or using lateral movement to deny a guard, he's more than capable of keeping players away from the basket. He's no lock-down defender, but opponents that run a pick-heavy offense will despise seeing him. 

At Texas he came off the bench, behind potential second-round pick Greg Brown. He's extremely raw in many areas of the game, but he's only been playing organized basketball for five years. 

3. Alperen Sengun (International)

Age: 18 (19 on draft night)

Height: 6-10

Weight: 240

Wingspan: N/A

2020/21 stats: 29 G, 19.2 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.3 spg, 1.7 bpg, 64.6 FG% (7.0/10.8), 19.0 3PT% (0.1/0.7), 81.2 FT%

A raw talent out of the Turkish League, Alperen Sengun is an intriguing prospect for teams that have the flexibility to draft and stash. He's an elite rebounder, but his success has come as simply being more athletic and taller than everyone else on the court. 

There's a lot to like about what he has shown in Turkey, what he hasn't shown though is a 3-point game. Limited attempts and low percentages will give teams some pause. Don't expect him to tear up the NBA the next two or three seasons, but if a team can fully take advantage of his already impressive basketball skill set, his development to an NBA-quality big man might not be too far off. 

4. Usman Garuba (International)

Age: 19

Height: 6-8

Weight: 229

Wingspan: 7-2

2020/21 stats: 38 G, 4.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.8 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.7 bpg, 50.4 FG% (1.6/3.1), 27.5 3PT% (0.3/1.1), 62.3 FT%

Usman Garuba will get drafted in the first round for his on-ball defensive abilities and the all-around energy he brings to the floor. Throughout his professional career, Garuba has never had a huge offensive role, with his biggest offensive output coming at 5.6 points per game in Liga ACB this past season.

Most recently he was with Real Madrid in the EuroLeague and put up strong defensive-per 40 stats. He's a switchable defender that has impressive lateral quickness for a player his size. Additionally, he's a strong rebounder and a threat to push the pace in transition.

5. Isaiah Jackson (Kentucky)

Age: 19

Height: 6-10

Weight: 206

Wingspan: 7-2

2020/21 stats: 25 G, 8.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.8 spg, 2.6 bpg, 54.0 FG% (3.0/5.5), 0.0 3PT% (0.0/0.1), 70.0 FT%

Isaiah Jackson will bring a huge added interior presence to whichever team drafts him this year. The upside he brings with his back facing the basket is tremendous and is a great rebounder that can get out and run. Any set play that involves a drive to the basket, Jackson is quick to nab a weakside block.

However, teams will have to figure out how to keep him involved on offense. Kentucky hid him as best they could and he was almost exclusively a dunker and putback option to get his points. 

But if you need an offensive rebound on a key play, you can count on Jackson.

Just missed the cut:

JT Thor (Auburn)