The Cleveland Cavaliers frontcourt has seen a fair amount of turnover since the team entered a rebuild in the 2018 summer.
Immediately following LeBron James’ second exit from the Land, the starting center spot was shared among Ante Zizic, Kevin Love, and Marquese Chriss. Eventually, Andre Drummond joined Cleveland’s ranks after being traded from the Detroit Pistons. Before his arrival, Drummond was a two-time NBA All-Star and first-time All-NBA team selection in 2016. He spent roughly a season-and-a-half with the Cavs until he was inevitably traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2021.
After Drummond’s exit, Cleveland found a young, developing center who immediately impacted their team defense for the better. Jarrett Allen was traded from the Brooklyn Nets to Cleveland as one of James Harden’s many recent trade requests.
A year later, Cleveland’s frontcourt received another impeccable boost when they selected Evan Mobley third overall in the 2022 NBA Draft. In two seasons together, the duo took the Cavaliers from a team in the bottom of the league’s defensive rating to the top defense in the 2022-23 regular season.
Mobley and Allen swatted a way a combined 203 shot attempts last season and were both in the top 15 among the NBA defensive win shares at 11.1 and 9.1, respectively. Mobley ended the season third in Defensive Player of the Year votes and received an All-Defense First Team selection.
All of this said with two players under 26 years old seems like an undeniably perfect pairing, but rumors continue to occur regarding splitting up the dynamic duo.
What’s the reason for the Mobley-Allen apprehension? The most obvious answer is Cleveland’s unimpressive playoff run against the New York Knicks. Both players were nonexistent in aggression on the boards, leading to the Knicks humiliating the Cavaliers in rebounding totals.
Additionally, neither player can stretch the floor and score reliably from outside the paint. Mobley has shown flashes of a mid-range attack, but his offense is still raw. In a league so focused on perimeter shooting, plenty of onlookers have credible reason to doubt the longevity of this iteration of Cleveland’s frontcourt.
There’s still a chance, but this season will be a make-or-break year for Mobley and Allen.
While the partnership has questions, there is no denying that their presence was a leading factor in Cleveland’s 51-31 regular season record. Every year, the 50-win mark places your team in an elite club of competitors. The Cavs nucleus is only getting better, granting strong reason to believe this success can be repeated.
But, a great regular season record clearly means little if home court advantage is wasted in the playoffs. The future is uncertain for Mobley and Allen, but with the youth of Cleveland’s roster, there is a multitude of reasons to hold out hope for their fit.
The 2023-24 season will be a proving ground for the two players that they learned from their faults in the postseason. Both will be under the microscope of the coaching staff and front office.
These are three reasons that Cleveland’s frontcourt can prove to be the right long-term pairing as the Cavs fight to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy once again.