When the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Evan Mobley with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, they committed to the former USC star as a future franchise cornerstone. But they did the very same with Jarrett Allen after agreeing to a five-year, $100 million contract with The Fro in restricted free agency.
The Cavaliers had to get aggressive to re-sign Allen, whom they acquired in the four-team trade involving James Harden. However, doling out $100 million just days after drafting Mobley appeared rash to some, at least in the rookie’s camp.
Fortunately for Cavs fans, Allen has shown Mobley they can work together in the same frontcourt. He’s also proving why Cleveland won the Harden trade.
Evan Mobley’s camp bristled at Jarrett Allen getting $100 million
Before the 2021 NBA Draft, Evan Mobley drew comparisons to Anthony Davis and Chris Bosh. Scouts and executives believed he perfectly fit the mold of a modern center, one capable of stretching the floor and relying upon athleticism as much as size.
But the Cavaliers made it clear Mobley would not play center as soon as they signed Allen to a new contract. According to ESPN‘s Brian Windhorst, some personnel in Mobley’s camp expressed some confusion regarding Cleveland’s financial commitment to The Fro.
Four days after drafting Mobley, the team signed Allen to a five-year, $100 million contract. Some draft experts and scouts projected Mobley could develop into a franchise center in the current taste of the NBA. In truth, Mobley and his camp thought this was possible too, so when Allen got paid there was some chin rubbing.–Brian Windhorst, ESPN
However, Cavs general manager Koby Altman had a plan.
Cleveland intended to deploy Allen and Mobley in the same frontcourt, giving the team a pair of active bigs capable of switching and providing offensive value in different areas. While Mobley’s early-season brilliance is generating Rookie of the Year buzz, Allen is excelling as a rim-running paint protector.
Allen gives the Cavaliers an elite interior presence
Jarrett Allen first showed signs of his two-way upside in his first few seasons with the Brooklyn Nets. But he’s been all the more impactful in Cleveland.
Through his first 28 games, Allen is averaging 16.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.4 blocks. He’s shooting over 70% from the field and ranks seventh in player impact estimate, according to NBA.com.
Contrary to his days with the Nets, Allen has been far more than a rim-roller. Mobley’s willingness to play on the perimeter and catch the ball free-throw line extended allows Allen to seek out deep position in the post. He’s done that with more assertiveness and effectiveness this season, taking post defenders off the dribble and finishing with an assortment of jump hooks and drop-step finishes in the restricted area.
Additionally, the 23-year-old feeds off Darius Garland in pick-and-roll. Garland, another of Cleveland’s building blocks, has improved in drawing extra defenders when he gets downhill, with Allen filling the space and becoming a beneficiary for lobs and easy chances around the rim.
The Cavaliers are 2.3 points better per 100 possessions offensively with Allen on the floor. He continues to anchor the paint on the other end, as well. The Cavs give up 2.9 fewer points per 100 possessions with him lurking in the middle.
Cleveland terrorizes opposing offenses with their massive frontcourt. In 518 minutes together, the two-man lineup of Mobley and Allen has a 95.9 defensive rating, per NBA.com. They manage to have some semblance of offensive success, with a 104.2 offensive rating.
Allen’s growth as a threat on the low post and his continued defensive excellence work well in conjunction with Mobley. They also highlight why the Cavs won the Harden trade.
Cavs get the most from the James Harden trade
Sure, James Harden played exceptional basketball for the Nets last season (when healthy) and has shown signs of reverting to All-NBA form in the past couple of games. Still, it’s hard to argue anyone but the Cavs won the megadeal that saw The Beard land in Brooklyn.
Cleveland has a legit franchise center in Allen, who looks even more valuable given how he’s been able to acclimate himself with Mobley on the floor. What did the other teams receive?
Well, the Nets got Harden. They also had to give up Allen, Caris LeVert, and a slew of draft capital. Time will tell if The Beard can help Brooklyn win a title. For now, all the Nets have to show is an early playoff exit.
The Indiana Pacers received Caris LeVert, who is now among the players Indiana could trade ahead of the deadline. As for the Houston Rockets? They got almost nothing from Victor Oladipo. The draft capital is excellent, but it will take years to flesh out.
Cavs fans can fondly look back on their involvement in the Harden trade. It landed them a player in Allen who is already an integral part of the organization’s current and future success.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.