Cavs’ Evan Mobley is once again finding his stride

Evan Mobley is undoubtedly one of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ best players, and he’s been a home run draft selection for them so far from the 2021 NBA Draft. Last season, he finished in an oh so close second in voting for the league’s Rookie of the Year Award, and had averages of 15.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.7 blocks per outing. In his second season, he’s averaged 14.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 steals and has again been a consistent two-way contributor for the Cavs.

Although in his second season to this point, there have been some rough stretches of games for Mobley at times, which would figure to be understandable. Fairly recently, he seemingly had one of those stretches last month, on the offensive end, more so. He has not hit a three since Dec. 17, either, and on the season, has shot 19.7 percent from deep, which is not exactly indicating growth.

Fortunately, Mobley looks to have found his gotten back on track in other ways, and it’s aided the team in multiple areas. So far in January, aside from a two-game absence because of ankle soreness, he’s put up 14.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. He’s had three games with multiple blocks, and on offense, has connected on 55.7 percent of his shots.

The free throw shooting clip having been 59.4 percent in those eight games is an area of improvement to watch, and he needs to trim down turnovers, as he had six in Cleveland’s 115-114 loss at the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night. But generally, in the past month-plus, he’s been pivotal for Cleveland, and Mobley did have 18 points, 15 rebounds, two blocks and a steal at Memphis, and was a plus-two in that near-comeback.

Mobley looks to be finding his stride once again for the Cavs.

Despite his three-point shooting woes, or lack of viability at this point from there for him, Mobley has still found ways to contribute on a game-to-game basis.

As he gains more experience, he’s availed himself as a cutter/dunker spot player very well in this recent stretch, and as a result, he’s often been in the right places at the right times for dumpoff feeds from Darius Garland. The same has applied for deliveries from Caris LeVert and even Isaac Okoro as well, to that point.

On the season, despite inconsistencies in other areas, Mobley has connected on 75.6 percent of his shot attempts from five feet and in, per NBA.com’s shooting data, and his off-ball feel, finishing power, and craftiness all have attributed to those splits. Now with Ricky Rubio back in tow, Mobley’s rolling/diving presence could be on display more readily as well, as another outstanding pick-and-roll playmaker too, a la Garland.

Additionally, though the deep catch-and-shoot production has not been there, as we articulated, Mobley has been finding his rhythm to hit some mid-range shots over defenders, and he’s been able to make plays in some catch-and-go situations to get to quality hook shots over both shoulders. That was on display at Memphis and in a recent comeback W at the Portland Trail Blazers last week, for instance.

When factoring in what Mobley has shown as a passer, as he continues to get more game experience, to go with his finishing, rim running and rebounding growth, he’s clearly looking to be hitting his stride again this month. And defensively, while there are some matchups where he’ll have problems against bigger forwards or against burly 5s in spurts, and he can be compromised on occasion in defensive rebounding sequences, his elite feel, versatility and shot altering typically more than outweighs minor deficiencies on that end.

For a player in his second season, Mobley’s defensive abilities are otherworldly, and with both ends in mind, he’s coming along just fine. As he move deeper into the seasons’ second half, one shouldn’t be too concerned about the 21-year-old.