Evan Mobley’s 1st Team All-Defense honor is so rare for a player his age

Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)
Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports) /

Evan Mobley has proven himself to be one of the biggest reasons for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ resurgence in the past two seasons.

Mobley, who was selected No. 3 overall in the 2021 NBA Draft by Cleveland, narrowly missed out on Rookie of the Year honors last season, and in his second year, he had 16.2 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. He got better as the season wore on, and in the second half of the campaign, became more assertive offensively, and the results followed.

That said, Mobley’s defense has been outstanding nearly from the jump since he’s been with the Cavaliers, and he was recently rewarded for his work there on Tuesday. Then, it was announced by the league that Mobley was named First-Team All-Defense, in which he joined the likes of Jrue Holiday, Alex Caruso, Jalen Jackson Jr. and Brook Lopez. The voting results followed.

Mobley’s ability to effectively force tough shots against a number of matchups was seen throughout the year, and his rim protection, shot altering and team defensive presence all factored into this. He was the best player for Cleveland’s No. 1 ranked defense in the regular season, and for a player in only his second year and in his age-21 season, him achieving this was amazing.

Further, as Cavs Notes emphasized, Mobley became the second-youngest player in NBA history to make First Team All-Defense, behind only Kobe Bryant in 1999-00, and he was the third Cavaliers player to make First Team All-Defense.

Making First Team All-Defense is an unbelievable achievement considering how young Mobley is.

Mobley is rapidly becoming one of the league’s most impactful defenders, and for a player his age, he’s so well-versed on that end of the floor.

His switchability, fluidity, and IQ all were integral for Cleveland’s defense, and his rim protection was crucial as well, as we alluded to. He was fourth in the league in contested shots per game, per NBA.com’s hustle data, and Mobley had a robust 1.5 blocks per contest, and a block rate of 4.0 percent.

Mobley does still need to get stronger heading into next season for him to round out his game on both ends of the floor, and there were times in Cleveland’s underwhelming first round series to the New York Knicks where that was apparent, in fairness.

But defensively, he’s more than held his own as an interior defender, and he continued to make strides there last season, and his mid-season work to keep adding muscle helped him there. In years to come, he should keep getting better as an all-around defender and shot alterer, provided he maintains his fluidity.

Combined with the overall shot contests, shot deterrence in a variety of areas, active hands and rim protection, Mobley placed in the 83rd percentile in the regular season in isolation defense, per Synergy Sports. Among players in that playtype, he had the third-highest frequency in the NBA as well (per Synergy).

Mobley does have to finetune his contests to catch-and-shoot players as a rotator, which is one of the few areas defensively he’s had inconsistencies, however, with the help he provides for the Cavs defense, and all the on-ball success he’s had, one can’t be too hung up on that. Cleveland adding some more competence on the defensive wing would only aid Mobley there as well, for what it’s worth.

To drive it home, either way, this NBA First Team All-Defense distinction for Mobley for a player who has not turned 22 yet is such a rare feat. For such a young player, how he affects games on that end of the floor and his versatility for a 6-foot-11 big makes him truly invaluable.

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It will be a pleasure to watch Evan Mobley’s continual maturation with the Wine and Gold, and next season, winning the Defensive Player of the Year might be a reasonable next step.