Throughout his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers thus far through two seasons, Evan Mobley has played both frontcourt positions, with him playing more at the 4 spot to this point. There’s been plenty of debate about what his best position could be for the long term, though.
Should the Cavs have Mobley featured at the 4 or 5 from here?
It’ll be something that will be speculated all offseason, depending what changes for the Cavs and where potential roster decisions lead them. Much has been made of the core four presumably Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, Mobley and Jarrett Allen, but going forward, one should consider the core being Mitchell, Garland and Mobley. If the right deal were to come along at some point with Allen being traded, the Cavaliers might have to eventually pull the trigger.
After the Cavs were dominated by the New York Knicks and went out in five games, it was clear the biggest issue was lack of spacing. Garland, Mobley and Mitchell weren’t good enough, but it was evident the lack of spacing really made it difficult for Garland and Mitchell to operate.
A huge problem for the Cavaliers has been sometimes they would have three non-shooters on the floor at the same time in Isaac Okoro, Mobley and Allen. It’s fair to say Okoro did makes progress this year, but at the same time, he still isn’t a viable enough threat out there for defenses to be affected by that growth.
It’s reasonable to wonder if the Cavs should break up the Mobley-Allen combo this offseason or sooner than later, and move Mobley to center at or near full-time. With Mobley at center, the Cavaliers actually functioned pretty well, as did he.
Hypothetically if the Cavs moved Mobley to center for the most part, they’d hopefully land a legitimate starting wing, while pairing him next to a 4 that say stretched the floor more and gave Mobley more room to operate. These aren’t guarantees, they’re just expectations to have in said scenario. If Cleveland were to possibly do that, though, things could really open up for the team and Mobley himself.
Obviously the Cavaliers need to add more shooting and need to find a starting 3, likely externally, and questions have come up as to whether or not playing two non-shooting big men will work come the playoffs. Recently, Chris Fedor made an argument for keeping the two together, when essentially addressing that subject. He expressed how if Mobley takes a leap with his offensive skill set, that’d make a huge difference for the Mobley-Allen outlook.
"“But what if Mobley develops a reliable outside shot? What if he can expand his game away from the paint? What if his offense catches up to his defense? What if he can become a focal point? What if he makes the renowned third-year leap — the same one as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, Chris Bosh, Bam Adebayo and so many others? That would change everything.The concerns about the Allen-Mobley pairing vanish. The predictable pick-and-roll heavy offense becomes more varied, taking pressure off of Garland and Mitchell. The Cavs are better equipped to combat the added focus on those dynamic guards.”"
Again, at this point you can make arguments for both, however, even during the times Mobley has been the center for the Cavs and it’s worked for extended stretches, I’d still say Mobley is better off being a 4/5 rather than a true center. One would be in the right for having some concerns about Mobley being a full-time center because of the strong issue. Yes, the Cavs often played very well the times he was at the 5, but if he’s there full time, it’s tough to project whether he’d make it through a full season at this point in his career.
We have to consider the possibility of Mobley being able to expand his range and skill set as well, to Fedor’s point. Mobley does have the profile to do it and really from January until the end of the regular season when he started to put it together offensively, he showed flashes of being able to expand his game. If he were to take a leap in that regard, and if Cleveland were to find a legitimate starting wing this offseason, it’d certainly puts a lot of the concerns about the Mobley-Allen pairing to rest.
I also think Mobley’s skill level favors him being a 4/5 instead of a true center full-time. Having someone like Allen take on center matchups more, while Mobley is the roamer is one of the things that makes the Cavaliers defense so great. There’s always a possibility in the future that from a financial and resources perspective, Cleveland could end up moving Mobley to center and using the money allocated to Allen via trade down the road, though.
That said, for now keeping Mobley at the 4 is the best option, for the majority of his minutes. The concerns about the playoffs are definitely valid, but if Cleveland can fix their small forward issue, that’d minimizes the flaws and if Mobley can expand his offense, that’d alleviate most of the Mobley-Allen problems with them playing together.