The Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers have two of the most exciting young talents in the NBA in Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley, respectively.
But which one would you rather have? A group of NBA executives were recently polled about which young player they would build around, and both players were on the list.
Mobley came in 4th just behind Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum and Ja Morant, which was a bit surprising, considering that number one overall pick Cade Cunningham finished 11th.
It’s a tricky question, as NBA champions were long built around dominant big men going back to the days of Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain. Things have shifted in recent years, with teams building around versatile wing players and bigs who don’t play like traditional centers.
Mobley isn’t a traditional center either, as he can defend all over the floor and took around 25 percent of his total shots from outside of 10 feet. Cade Cunningham, on the other hand, is a playmaking wing who can be the team’s primary scorer and facilitator. Neither guy falls into a traditional position and both have games that suit the modern NBA, so which one would you rather build a team around?
Cade Cunningham or Evan Mobley: Recent past champions
In 2004 the Detroit Pistons won the title with a team that didn’t have a traditional center, and since then only five NBA champions were built around a big man.
Three of them were Tim Duncan of the Spurs (2005, 2007, 2014), though I think you could argue that the 2014 title was more about Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard than Duncan.
That leaves Dirk Nowitzki in 2011 and Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2021.
Other than that, every other title team was built around a guard or a wing with guys like Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade doing most of the damage.
However, if you look at the bigs whose teams did win titles, none of them are traditional centers (late-era Duncan would be the closest), as Giannis and Dirk play more like wing guys.
So if we look at the last 20 titles, only one team was built around a “traditional” big (Tim Duncan), and he is a guy who was known for his passing and mid-range game. He could step away from the hoop and hit shots, so I think you could argue that he too was more of a power forward than a center until later in his career.
The point is I don’t think it really matters if you are building around a guard, wing or big as long as that person is a versatile player who doesn’t just stand in the paint and dunk.
Both Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley fall into that category, so until we see them play more, I think you could make an argument for either one based on your preference or bias.
I’d take Cade just because I think he has far more offensive potential, and that he could be a player more like LeBron, while Mobley more like a Chris Bosh.
But if you are starting a team you’d probably take either one, as Cade fits more the versatile wing playmaker we’ve seen recently, but Mobley could fall into that outlier category of bigs who can do a little bit of everything like Giannis.