For the Cleveland Cavaliers, Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland and Evan Mobley are going to be the top three options on offense.
Mitchell made All-NBA Second Team in his first year with the Cavaliers last season following his trade acquisition from the Utah Jazz. He had a career-best 28.3 points per contest last season, broke Cleveland’s single-season record for three-pointers made with 245, and he’s a four-time All-Star. He’ll be Cleveland’s top scoring threat once again, and could for years to come, at least theoretically.
In Garland’s case, he wasn’t named an All-Star last season, but he’s one of the NBA’s best young guards, and even with his passing abilities, he’s a gifted scorer in his own right. Garland had 21.6 points per contest during last regular season in his fourth year, shot 41.0 percent from three-point range, and should only get better as an overall player from here.
As for Mobley, he, similarly to several other Cavs, did not perform up to standard on offense in Cleveland’s first-round series loss to the New York Knicks. Mobley did not look assertive on that end, and unfortunately did not carry forward his success on offense from the second half of the 2022-23 regular season, where it appeared he was turning a corner.
That being said, Mobley’s second half of last regular season was an encouraging time with what he displayed offensively, with his on-ball strides, assertiveness, pick-and-roll play and mid-range flashes.
If he establish more consistency on offense this coming year, there’s a scenario where he could possible become Cleveland’s top non-Mitchell scoring option, which could really pay dividends. Furthermore, the Cavaliers are reportedly looking to feature Mobley more offensively next year.
Could Mobley be the Cavaliers’ second option in 2023-24?
Mobley’s offensive growth is critical for Cleveland taking the next step to true contention in the Eastern Conference. The Cavaliers are on the cusp of being at that level, and they did address their perimeter shooting needs this offseason, but if Mobley can solidify himself as an offensive force night-to-night, then that would go a long way for Cleveland’s chances.
Mobley didn’t have a good first playoff experience offensively versus the Knicks. He had 9.8 points per outing in Cleveland’s five-game series loss to New York, averaged only 1.6 free throw attempts in that series, and had single-digit scoring in two of the outings. That sort of thing cannot persist next postseason, and in years ahead from the young big.
On the plus side, as we alluded to, Mobley did exhibit progression in the second half of the 2022-23 regular season, and there’s been plenty of instances where his potential as an offensive force has popped. In his last 43 regular season appearances of this past season, he had 17.5 points per game on 55.3 percent shooting, and there were promising playmaking strides shown from him.
Mobley has to display progression as a shooter outside the paint, and as a self creator, though, and feasibly, as a catch-and-shoot threat. He’s not been much of a three-point shooter at all to this point with the Cavaliers through two seasons (a 23.2 percent hit rate on just 194 attempts), and he has to be more efficient with cashing in on free throws.
Granted, after hopefully a productive offseason, including him continuing to work in the weight room, Mobley could be poised for a Year 3 breakout. The possibility is there, if the shot-making strides are, and with Mobley having good feel as a passing big, he could help a number of Cavaliers in set situations, and ideally, in the playoffs.
However, he has to go out and prove it next year, and that’s also involving Mobley hopefully improving his handle. Early on next season could be indicative of that development, too, for what it’s worth.
All things considered, though, it might be unrealistic still to believe Mobley will fully take on being Cleveland’s second option. That’s probably still going to be Garland on a regular basis.
The verdict is probably a no for now, but that doesn’t mean Mobley can’t get there, or be the top guy for Cleveland long-term.
With Mobley’s already First Team All-NBA defensive abilities, his two-way feel, especially for a 6-foot-11 player, the 22-year-old has All-World potential. He’ll just have to put it all together for that to play out in years to come with the Cavs.
He’ll likely project as Cleveland’s third option again next season, but if Mobley takes that proverbial next step forward, and can really make that leap, the Cavs could be on their way to the NBA Finals, with the bench and others now in tow.