The Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t have the playoff run they were looking for, but Cleveland still is on the way up in the Eastern Conference. Still, that five-game playoff series loss to the New York Knicks stung as a Cavaliers fan.
Despite that, the Wine and Gold had an impressive 2022-23 campaign. Cleveland won 51 games, made the playoffs for the first time since 2018, and even with the abrupt playoff exit, it was a season where the Cavaliers turned another corner.
Cleveland still has one of the best young cores in the Association with Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, with Jarrett Allen still arguably among that core. They also had a productive offseason, where the Cavs addressed their shooting needs in bringing in the likes of Max Strus and Georges Niang, and re-signing Caris LeVert was a sensible call.
The Cavaliers have to prove themselves in the postseason from here, but last year was assuredly a season to build on, and youngsters such as Garland and Mobley should continue to get better. That playoff experience was still meaningful, too, and clearly, Garland and Mobley are two young players that are on the way up for Cleveland, and two of the team’s pillars moving forward.
With that sort of thing in mind, recently, Brad Botkin of CBS Sports gave his ranking of the NBA’s top five under-25 duos, and checking in at No. 3 on that list was Garland and Mobley.
Garland and Mobley should be with the Cavs for a very long time, and they both have tons of great basketball ahead of them.
Botkin did essentially state how while Garland and Mobley have to improve on defense and offense, respectively, they’re still both players the Wine and Gold can build with looking onward from here.
Granted, Botkin did also note how it’s not necessarily a foregone conclusion that Mitchell and Garland might not eventually be broken up via trade seemingly, given their small backcourt make-up. All things considered, though, with the talent level of both, and Cleveland’s role player improvements, that statement seems premature for now, particularly if Mobley takes a step forward on offense, paired with his elite defense. That’s even more so the case if Jarrett Allen rebounds from his past playoffs.
Last regular season, Garland had 21.6 points and 7.8 assists per game last season, and shot 41.0 percent from three-point range. With the trade arrival of Mitchell last offseason, Garland’s performance was more than satisfactory, and he should be able to fine-tune his game more from here.
Paired with that from Garland, despite a rocky playoff performance, Mobley had 16.2 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists per contest. He had 1.5 blocks per outing in his second season as well, and in just his second year, Mobley was an All-NBA First Team selection. That was quite a rare feat in his then-age-21 season.
As for the others featured in Botkin’s top five under-25 duos, Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe of the Portland Trail Blazers, then Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels of the Minnesota Timberwolves were at No. 5 and 4. No. 2 and No. 1 were Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner of the Orlando Magic and then Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. of the Memphis Grizzlies, to top the list.
Time will tell if Garland and Mobley can reach the high-end levels of Morant and Jackson, and the two-way potential of Banchero and Wagner may be unrealistic, at least for Garland. However, generally, it’s evident Cleveland has two already-big-time guys in DG and Evan, and from my perspective, both seem to just be getting started with the Cavaliers.
Next season, hopefully the third-year offensive leap from Mobley comes, and the Cavs take another step to true contention in the Eastern Conference.