Cavs’ Evan Mobley gets 13 votes for Second Team All-Defensive forward

Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)
Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Cleveland Cavaliers look to have a star big man in the making in Evan Mobley, who finished second in Rookie of the Year voting. Toronto Raptors forward Scottie Barnes was the player that received the honor for the 2021-22 season, and he looks to have an incredibly promising future in his own right for the club north of the border.

In my humble opinion, and to agree with our own Corey Casey, Mobley should’ve won the Rookie of the Year, though. That’s given how he was one of the big reasons for the Cavaliers returning to relevance, and Toronto was a postseason team in 2020 that was then the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Cleveland, meanwhile, has not made the postseason since 2018.

Putting that ROY snub in the rearview, Mobley looks to have been a home run selection for the Cavaliers in the 2021 NBA Draft at #3, and he had 15.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.7 blocks per outing in his first season. He was recently named the first Cav since Dion Waiters in 2012-13, so nearly a decade, to make the All-Rookie First Team, too.

For a first-year player, Mobley’s approach to the game was something one doesn’t see often from rookies, and from the outset of the season, he made his presence felt in a myriad of ways.

Mobley is not realistically much of a three-point shooting threat yet, and his defensive rebounding positioning needs to improve, and hopefully will as he gets stronger, but that will come. And as we touched on, there were far more positives than negatives with Mobley, such as his finishing, interior touch, mid-range/fadeaway flashes, off-ball feel and his passing, on offense.

On the defensive end, in particular, he was a true difference-maker, though. In that realm, it was noteworthy, to me, that while Mobley was not a player named to one of the NBA’s All-Defensive teams, he did receive 13 votes for Second Team All-Defense, regarding forwards.

You can view the All-Defensive squads below, for context, and more via the league’s press release here.

Mobley wasn’t on an All-Defensive squad, but him receiving 13 second-place votes for the forward spot was no small feat.

There’s still going to be stretches where Mobley is going to play at the 5, and he did mostly when Jarrett Allen was out in most of the season’s closing stretch, and he essentially did play as more of a wing in some stretches as well.

Regardless, when both Mobley and Allen were in regularly for Cleveland, and they were mostly healthy, it was so crucial for the Cavaliers’ success on the defensive end.

Allen, with that in mind, did receive one second-place vote for NBA All-Defense, for centers, and had he missed less time, likely would’ve had more, clearly. The Cavaliers defense was not what it was pre-All-Star break with him, and to some extent, Dean Wade out, but for much of the season, that was the backbone for this team.

And in Mobley’s case, it was apparent even early on how even with him being so young (20 in Year 1), his positioning was often on-point, he was among the league’s best at contesting shots effectively in the paint without fouling, and his off-ball feel was great.

The 7-foot Mobley again as we mentioned had 1.7 blocks per contest in his first season, and in tandem with the 6-foot-10 Allen (1.3 blocks per game) formed one of the best 4-5 defensive duos in the league. I also do believe that next season, with more familiarity, those two, along with the 7-foot Lauri Markkanen could be improved as a trio on both ends, too, as an aside.

In addition, while I acknowledge the 215-pound Mobley needs to get stronger to improve defensively against more physical bigs, his ability to switch against a number of perimeter players when needed at times on-ball was very promising for what’s to come. There’s still tough matchups in that aspect here and there, but by and large, for a rookie 7-footer, I thought he exceeded expectations in that way, too.

As we hit on, there’s still development to go for Mobley in coming years on both ends, however, his first season was a resounding success, as he was invaluable for the team, and it was telling that when Mobley played, Cleveland was 40-29.

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His defense, to reiterate, was even better than us Cavs fans could’ve expected, even with that having plenty of hype heading into the year.