Going into his third season, Evan Mobley should be considered among the league’s elite on the defensive end.
Mobley has been one of the crucial reasons for the Cavaliers’ defensive turnaround in the past two seasons, and his versatility, fluidity for his size, length, basketball intelligence and rim protection all have made a defensive difference-maker.
Last season, Mobley made First-Team All-Defense, which was no small thing in itself. Better yet, he was the youngest finalist in NBA history for the Defensive Player of the Year. Coming into the 2023-24 campaign, Mobley should be a legitimate DPOY candidate, if he can build on this past season and the Cavaliers are one of the Eastern Conference’s top clubs.
The defensive chops for Mobley speak themselves at this point. He’s such a unique player there, let alone for a 22-year-old. But on the other end, Mobley has to level up in his third season, and be able to build on his close to the last regular season, prior to the playoffs in that sense.
Mobley seemed to be turning a corner on offense in the second half of his second regular season, as he was getting to quality shots, making plays for himself and others, and was more assertive. There were some encouraging mid-range flashes from him in that time as well.
Unfortunately, Mobley averaged just 9.8 points per contest in Cleveland’s disappointing playoff series loss in the first round to the New York Knicks, and was one of several Cavaliers that struggled offensively.
That being said, going into his third year, and with Cleveland set to feature him more as an offensive presence, including as a playmaker and pseudo hub big it seems, he could be in for a third-year leap. For that to happen, though, the mindset has to be there for him to be aggressive, and it’s evident he needs to be one of the Cavaliers’ offensive focal points, game-in and game-out moving forward.
Mobley has reportedly worked extensively on his offensive game heading into this crucial season for him and Cleveland.
With the Cavaliers set to play through him more, he should be more in-rhythm game-to-game on offense, and if he does show progression with his handle, he should be able to take advantage more against bigs. Further, while he’s not quite filled out yet, he has gotten stronger, which should theoretically make a difference for him as an on-ball finisher in the paint and for absorbing contact.
As a playmaker and/or possible big man hub, Mobley has reportedly studied film of Bam Adebayo, and there were glimpses of some of that element displayed from Evan in preseason. And with Mobley being a heady passer, if he can apply some of those things Adebayo executes with the Miami Heat, that’d help Max Strus, Bam’s former teammate, and Darius Garland, among others.
In addition, if Mobley can push pace after defensive rebounds, that could open up more quality looks for himself this season, along with his teammates. With the Cavaliers reportedly stressing to push the pace and have more urgency on offense, if Mobley can be involved in that aspect, it could enable others such as Garland and Donovan Mitchell to be more active as off-ball threats in those instances.
Now, of course, it would be great to see Mobley progress as a deep threat, as he’s connected on just 23.2 percent of his three-point attempts through two seasons. He has not shown much in that regard thus far with the Cavs, and has attempted 1.3 threes per outing in his two years.
Whether or not that comes from Mobley this season, if he can demonstrate more growth as a shot creator and be more of a threat at least in the mid-range and be more reliable on free throws, though, that’d be meaningful for Cleveland. If the shooting development pops from Mobley, that could lead to less of a long-term concern with the Evan Mobley-Jarrett Allen pairing for offense, where in the playoffs, there could be some questions, even with Cleveland’s shooting additions.
In any case, with Mobley, it’s abundantly clear he has to continually be one of Cleveland’s focal points on offense game-in and game-out from here. That’ll fall on the Cavs offense, but also Mobley himself, as it pertains to his mindset, to ensure that plays out.