ZUO Sports >Basketball Hub >Evan Mobley's evolution is upon us — is it enough for the Cavaliers?

Evan Mobley's evolution is upon us — is it enough for the Cavaliers?


I'd like to workshop a take: The Cleveland Cavaliers are theNBA's preeminent "but" team.

Think about your ideal makeup of a contender. You want a teamthat can dominate — or wall off — the paint. Preferably both. Youwant a stingy defense, period. You want scheme-breaking shotcreators — guys who can attack a drop, pass against more aggressivecoverage, and boogie against defenders 1-on-1 when the situationcalls for it. You want proper spacing around those guys to maketheir jobs easier.

The Cavs check a lot of those boxes.

There's a reason they've been near or at the top of the leaguein net rating all year long. Per Cleaning The Glass, they'reone-tenth of a point behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the bestdefense in the NBA, headlined by their menacing frontcourt. Infact, the Cavs are one of four teams — joining the Grizzlies,Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers — that rank in the top 10 inoffensive and defensive rating.

Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland certainly pass thebust-your-defense smell test. Mitchell will, at worst, make theAll-NBA Second Team; Garland doesn't have the same momentum, buthe's played at an All-NBA level.

There are enough questions, enough "buts" (grow up), to generatesome unease:

How versatileis this defense — especially withonly one of the twin towers on the floor?They're skilled enough to beat mostcoverages,but, do we trust their process late ingames?Are there enoughspacers to accentuate the skillsof Mitchell and Garland?

Smack dab in the middle of these questions, figuratively andliterally, is second-year forward Evan Mobley. Mobley doubles as abudding young star and, arguably, Cleveland's biggest X-factorthis postseason.

After narrowly missing out on Rookie of the Year last season,Mobley showcased growth along the margins. His screening gotbetter; he shaved tenths of a second off of his post-catch moves,unlocking more shot opportunities, short-roll playmaking windowsand more half-court continuity as a handoff hub. While still wiry,Mobley's added strength helped foster growth as a rebounder.

In 2023, Mobley has exploded.

Over his past 41 games, he's averaging 17.9 points whileconverting roughly 60% of his twos, grabbing 9.2 rebounds, dishingout 3.0 assists (1.8 turnovers), swatting 1.8 shots and snaggingnearly a steal (0.8) per game.

The scoring has popped in a real way. After having 12 games of20 or more points last season, he's up to 20 this year. He's rackedup 13 since the turn of the calendar, including big performancesagainst the Milwaukee Bucks (38 and 9) and DenverNuggets (31 and 9).

What Mobley can do as a lob threat or cleanup man on theoffensive glass is well-documented. But the self-creation flashes?We're moving away from "flashes" and into this-is-what-he-doesterritory.

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