With NBA training camp on the horizon and the 2023-24 NBA campaign set to commence next month, it’s an exciting time as a fan of the Association. From a Cleveland Cavaliers’ perspective, it should be another fun season to boot, as the Cavaliers will look to build off of their playoff return last season.
Cleveland didn’t have the deep playoff run fans were hoping for, as they fell in just five games in the first round to the New York Knicks, but it was nice to see them back in the playoffs. Cleveland hadn’t been there since 2018.
The Wine and Gold will have more firepower going into this upcoming season as well, with the additions of Georges Niang and Max Strus (via sign-and-trade), and Caris LeVert was re-signed. Those three should help out Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, and, hopefully, Ty Jerome and Tristan Thompson can give Cleveland more viability off the bench in their time on the floor as well.
Going into the year at least, Cleveland should be able to keep progressing forward. The Cavs are still largely young, but bringing in some meaningful veterans with playoff experience should pay off for them, one would imagine.
For Cleveland come next and in general, though, there is still something that has long been a topic of debate among the fan base, as it pertains to their frontcourt. And in that realm, there was yet another reminder of that, courtesy of Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report.
In Bailey’s recent piece for B/R, which stressed the “biggest question” for each NBA team ahead of media days, his one for the Cavaliers was about if Mobley and Allen can fit together. Bailey did mention how both have been a dynamite duo on defense in the regular season, but expressed how in the playoffs, the offensive limitations of the pairing are a concern.
Mobley and Allen have made their mark as an elite defensive duo. Mobley and Allen were instrumental for Cleveland’s No. 1 defense in the 2022-23 regular season, and both do a heck of a job of contesting shots without fouling.
Both of those players enable Cleveland to be versatile defensively, and Mobley, in particular, is integral to the Wine and Gold’s defensive approach in that aspect. His fluidity, length and team feel are truly rare for a player who is just 22 and not quite yet in his third season.
Bailey did get the defensive duo their due for their abilities on defense together, but in the playoffs, Cleveland struggled against the New York Knicks in a five-game series loss, and the duo was not great. It was the first playoff series for Mobley, sure; despite that, these splits from that series likely spoke volumes to plenty of Cavaliers fans who have their doubts about that frontcourt pairing long term.
"“The Cleveland Cavaliers had the NBA’s best defense in 2022-23. When Mobley and Allen were on the floor, the Cavs were plus-8.2 points per 100 possessions.But that trend certainly didn’t hold in a five-game first-round loss to the New York Knicks. Cleveland was minus-two when the twin towers shared the floor and got outrebounded by 41 for the entire series.”"
Bailey’s concerns about the Mobley-Allen pairing were mostly about how Cleveland’s starting frontcourt might have to be broken up eventually by Allen maybe having to be traded, if Mobley cannot show seemingly notable improvement as a perimeter shooter.
The playoffs were what he cited for that reasoning, with teams being able to zero in on their opponents in that setting, and when having two non-shooters regularly on the floor can be detrimental to a club’s offense. That didn’t help Cleveland’s cause in that Knicks series, and while Mobley did his part on the glass, Allen’s positioning then and lack of offensive assertiveness on the inside was frustrating. With that playoff performance, the Allen trade suggestions throughout the offseason haven’t been surprising in the least.
All of that said, with Cleveland bringing in shooters such as Max Strus and Georges Niang this offseason, and the young Cavaliers having another year to round out their games, Cleveland could fare far better come the 2024 Playoffs. The past playoffs was still something this iteration of the Cavs can definitely learn from, and having Tristan Thompson back for veteran leadership can make a difference for Mobley for the playoffs, too.
However, for Cleveland as a team overall, it is apparent Mobley has to demonstrate further offensive growth as a scorer outside of the paint this coming season, and showing some legit progress as a catch-and-shoot threat from three could go a long way.
There’s been flashes from Mobley as a mid-range threat, and he was more assertive in the second half of the 2022-23 regular season. That just didn’t carry forward in the playoffs, unfortunately.
Now, with Cleveland having a productive offseason in adding shooting, that could definitely make a difference for the group. But until the potential Mobley offensive leap does come, many will still have questions about the Mobley-Allen pairing long term it seems.