New ESPN ranking shows Evan Mobley has a lot to prove with Cavs

Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images
Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images /

In the NBA, a player’s legacy is built through achieving beyond the standards set season by season. The modern era has more commentary than ever before with the amount of digital discussion and statistics available.

Since entering the Association, Evan Mobley has been a predominant defender and young talent for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Thus far through two seasons, Mobley has just barely missed out on regular season accolades. His rookie year, he lost the Rookie of the Year campaign to Toronto’s Scottie Barnes by a historically close margin.

In the 2022-23 season, Mobley came close to the Defensive Player of the Year award only to be eclipsed by Jaren Jackson, Jr. and Brook Lopez. Evan Mobley had 1.5 blocks per game and the second-best defensive win shares last year, per Additionally, NBA’s stat tracking listed Mobley defending the most 3-point attempted last season, an accomplishment shockingly impressive for an interior player.

Cleveland’s star forward was given the honor of NBA’s First Team All-Defense, something only achieved so early by a miniscule number of NBA legends. Surely, defensive awards will be a common occurrence for Evan Mobley.

His defensive excellence at a young age is unparalleled to his peers. While the Association has welcomed plenty of future superstars in recent years, Mobley has grown into a perennial defensive stopper by the age of 21 years old.

Entering the next season, Mobley’s bar for success is rising higher and higher in the eyes of Cleveland’s faithful. In ESPN’s recent predictions for the next winner of each major NBA award (subscription required), Evan Mobley was listed twice, but his placement adds another layer of depth to Mobley’s third season.

Evan Mobley is entering the 2023-24 season as an underdog with a lot to prove.

NBA experts anticipate Mobley continuing his defensive dominance, listing him tied fourth in Defensive Player of the Year prediction votes. Who is he tied with? 2021-22 DPOY winner Marcus Smart.

Comparing Evan Mobley to a recent DPOY winner is undeniably a monumental compliment. Two of the three players listed higher than Mobley have already won DPOY, those being Jaren Jackson Jr. in first place to repeat and Milwaukee great Giannis Antetokounmpo at third. Sandwiched between is Miami’s Bam Adebayo.

Mobley ended last season in the top three in voting. This suggests that Mobley will fall back in his dominance compared to the rest of the league. After two impeccable seasons, Evan Mobley enters this race as an underdog. That does not mean Mobley cannot win the award.

Instead, he is going to have many eyes on his defensive performance all 82 games. His greatness will be seen across the NBA, but he will have to show why he is above his competitive peers.

Should the former USC powerhouse win the award in 2024, there will be no doubt that he earned every vote in his favor. He will be respected on opening night, but he is not favored by the majority of the league. If he wins them over, it is truly the fruits of his laborious hard work.

Hard work is no foreign concept to Mobley. Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff never runs out of praise for his effort, as displayed in a recent article by The Ringer on Mobley’s growth and potential.

"“He is always trying to perfect his game. At his age, you know, most of the time guys are caught up in so many other things. But he genuinely is trying to play the game as purely and perfectly as you possibly can, every single time he steps on the floor.”-J.B. Bickerstaff"

While Mobley’s defense is elite already, his offense game is still developing. Should he grow as a scorer, passer, or overall offensive threat, ESPN’s experts believe he could win more than just DPOY.

In the 2021 NBA Draft, Evan Mobley was selected first behind Detroit’s choice of Cade Cunningham first overall, followed by the Houston Rockets passing on him as well.

Evan Mobley had a greater rookie season than both players taken ahead of him. Once again, Cade Cunningham and a Houston Rocket are listed before Mobley for the 2023-24 Most Improved Player award.

Listed first and second are Cunningham and 2023 draft selection Jabari Smith Jr.

History repeats itself, and hopefully it will once again in favor of Evan Mobley to surpass them as the third overall prediction with 3.8 percent of expert votes. How can Mobley do this? It will take more than another year of great defense and inefficient offense.

This season, the Cavaliers are entering a possible revenge season with greater floor spacing expectations. In response, Cleveland President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman expressed the team’s intentions to place Mobley as the nucleus of their offensive gameplan more often come this fall.

Should the Cavs follow through, Evan Mobley will have his greatest opportunity to embrace his offensive potential yet. His offense could leap beyond all expectations, whether it is as an orchestrator, shooter, slasher, or post scorer. If he can consistently and confidently answer the call to improve, the award will be his to lose.

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Hopefully these rankings light a fire in Mobley’s heart and soul to reach the next step in his development into basketball stardom. He has every tool to do so at his disposal. It will be up to him to recognize the moments and methods to use them, changing his narrative from an underdog to a leader among the NBA.