Evan Mobley was an essential reason for the Cleveland Cavaliers cracking the NBA Play-in Tournament this season. Selected with the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Mobley started in all 69 games he appeared in for the Cavs, averaging 33.8 minutes per game.
Across those contests, Mobley averaged 15.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game while shooting 50.8/25.0/66.3. Mobley’s efforts were enough for him to be a finalist for the 2021-22 NBA Rookie of the Year Award.
Here are three things we learned from Mobley’s standout rookie season.
Evan Mobley is a multifaceted threat for the Cleveland Cavaliers
Evan Mobley was a compelling and versatile player in his lone season at USC, and he remained such a player in his debut season with the Cavs. As a multifaceted player, Mobley emphatically finishes over defenders in the paint, defends the rim at a reasonable level, has a bit of a jump shot, and is capable of putting the ball on the floor.
Cleveland was a surprise team because they were previously a team of young players who weren’t meshing and subsequently lived near the Eastern Conference’s bottom. It’s unrealistic to expect a team that picks third in the draft and loses its best player at the time, Collin Sexton, to a torn meniscus three weeks into the season to win 44 games. Yet, they did, and Mobley was indispensable to their play.
Mobley makes an impact on both ends of the floor. His interior presence gave the Cavs an unpredictable scorer – in a good way – and was a necessity when Jarrett Allen missed the last month of the regular season due to a finger injury. Mobley dabbled in all parts of the offense and head coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s rotation as a whole.
A one-year college player as a seven-footer, Mobley was a raw product this season. If the 2021-22 season was a mere glimpse of what’s to come, then the sky’s the limit for Mobley.
Cleveland Cavaliers need Mobley to score off the dribble more
Most NBA teams rely on an elite forward or two or a handful of wing scorers. The Cleveland Cavaliers decided “let’s do the exact opposite of that” last offseason. In selecting Evan Mobley with the No. 3 pick, retaining Allen on a $100 million deal, and sign-and-trading for Lauri Markkanen, they created a frontcourt with three players who are 6-foot-11 or taller.
Yes, the Cavs found considerable success with two and, at times three, of the aforementioned big men on the floor together. That said, adjustments and growth are needed for that alignment to prosper on the offensive end. Such growth is heavily reliant on Mobley.
Allen is primarily an internal threat. Markkanen is primarily a mid-range and three-point shooting threat. Those two skill sets are complementary to each other. Of course, there’s one more big man in the mix, and he’s the most pivotal of the three. Mobley being money in the paint is a plus but not a must-have because Allen gets his points on that part of the floor. Mobley has occasionally stretched the floor at both the college and pro levels, but it’s not a must-have because of Markkanen’s ability to stretch the floor.
The soon-to-be second-year player would make a more resounding impact by serving as an in-between player to Markkanen and Allen. In other words, he puts the ball on the floor 15 or so feet away from the basket and attacks the rack.
He can also attack the rack from the perimeter, drawing a double-team and creating an open look for someone else. With Mobley playing with an attacking mindset, his dunking and shot-making become more dangerous, as it’s a secondary concern for defenses. Him becoming an All-Star-caliber scorer also takes some attention off budding star Darius Garland.
Evan Mobley has the chance to be a unique NBA star
Evan Mobley is a unique player. Only a handful of seven-footers in the NBA can have their way in the paint, put the ball on the floor, and defend well. Mobley is one of those players and has the upside to be an elite frontcourt player.
Offensively, Mobley can transform his game. Furthermore, it’s a position-less league. Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid are adept at scoring off the dribble. If Mobley adds that skill to his repertoire, it makes him nearly unstoppable. He’d also still be in just his second NBA season with that arsenal.
Mobley’s game is reminiscent of Chris Bosh when he was dunking on people with the Toronto Raptors. The latter was a force to be reckoned with in the paint who could put the ball on the floor and gradually developed a jump shot. An inch taller than Bosh, Mobley has the upside to create a reliable jumper down the road and is already a reputable interior player.
The Cavaliers have a pair of players to build through in Garland and Mobley and a roster to be enthused by. One could argue that Mobley has the chance to become their offensive centerpiece. He’s an impact player with a roadmap to being an elite force.