This season, I thought Evan Mobley was outstanding in his rookie season for the Cleveland Cavaliers, as I’m sure many thought so, too. Mobley was one of the key reasons for the Cavaliers’ resurgence this year, and looking onward, he has the potential to be a superstar in this league for a long time.
On the season, Mobley had 15.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.7 blocks per contest, and he ended up finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting. Scottie Barnes of the Toronto Raptors won the award, and while I’m not diminishing Barnes’ efforts, as he was terrific for Toronto, Mobley’s consistency should’ve been rewarded more. I concur with our own Corey Casey on that.
Even still, Mobley proved to be a home run selection for the Cavaliers at #3 in the 2021 NBA Draft, and in coming years, I’d expect him to further establish himself as one of the NBA’s best young bigs. It was noteworthy that when Mobley was available, Cleveland had a 40-29 record.
His defensive impact was incredible for Cleveland, with his rim protection, agility, fluidity and his intuition, and offensively, despite some tough stretches here and there, his touch inside the paint, finishing with power, too, and his passing were all impressive. Mobley was able to make plays getting to spots in the mid-range as well, which I don’t discount, and that’s something to build on, with his finishing and playmaking.
That being said, there are still a few areas where Mobley needs to take positive steps next season, with him hopefully able to get stronger this offseason to come, which I’d imagine should help a weakness in defensive rebounding positioning at times. And perhaps interior defense when he’s at the 5 is another improvement area.
Another area, though, is Mobley needs to show some growth in the catch-and-shoot game from three.
Catch-and-shoot progression is a key to watch for Mobley next season for the Cavs.
Mobley’s finishing on the interior was great in his first year, and he converted his share of floaters, push shots and showed promise with pull-ups and fadeaways at times.
On the season, he converted on 46.0 percent of his attempts from 10-14 feet, and while there was some streakiness, he hit 37.9 percent from 15-19 feet, both per NBA.com’s shooting data. The latter clip wasn’t great, but he made his share of plays with initial touches in the mid-post, and made plays for himself from the elbows, whether that was on-ball or as a passer, which was good to see.
But as we alluded to, Mobley was not much of a three-point shooting in Year 1. He was 23-of-92 on the season from three, so he hit 25.0 percent from three. He did have nice spurts on occasion regarding perimeter shooting on catch-and-shoots, however, that’s a clear area where there has to be some growth next season, ideally.
On three-point attempts up to 24 feet, he was 12-of-39, a 30.8 percent clip, again per NBA.com’s shooting data, and from deep attempts from 25-29 feet, his clip was just 11-of-51, a 21.6 percent hit rate. These were nearly all catch-and-shoot looks, for context.
Granted, Mobley’s catch-and-shoot potential from three wasn’t on display a ton at USC in his lone collegiate season there, as he was 12-of-40 from three, which was a 30.0 percent hit rate from deep. It was on only 1.2 attempts per outing, a nearly identical volume to his of 1.3 in his rookie season with Cleveland.
Anyway, while I didn’t expect Mobley to be a regular deep ball threat often this season, and next season, I’m not expecting him to turn into a high volume shooter from three, it would be meaningful, obviously, for him to show growth as a catch-and-shoot guy.
The volume won’t be high, necessarily, and with all Mobley does to impact games, he doesn’t need to be jacking up tons of threes off-the-catch. But moving forward, and beginning next season, it is a key to watch, in relation to his development offensively, if Mobley can show tangible growth signs from deep.
His free throw clip tailed off later in the season to 66.3 percent, however, that for a big in Year 1 wasn’t that bad, and his release is workable. So I’d imagine next year, we could see some real strides made for him as a true threat from three.
If that’s the case, with feasibly extensive offseason work in that area, it’d only help make Evan that much more impactful game-to-game for the Cavaliers, even beyond what he’s already capable of.
In coming years, anyhow, if Mobley can become a fairly respectable shooter on catch-and-shoot threes, it’d only open up more scoring and secondary playmaking opportunities for him in set offense. And that’d only benefit others, such as Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen and Collin Sexton, provided Sexton sticks around.