The offseason additions for Cleveland could have ended up for naught if the existing core did not continue to improve. That led all eyes to focus on Evan Mobley as he enters his third season.
In his second season, Mobley showed slight improvement in offensive efficiency, but he had trouble absorbing impact in the post and could get outworked by more physical opponents. While many analysts and fans expected a second-year leap from the young star, it was only his defense that really jumped up, earning him a spot on NBA All-Defense First Team and he was a finalist in the Defensive Player of the Year voting.
For the Cavs to enter the next tier of competition, though, Mobley needed to become a driving force on offense. He has been compared to a growing myriad of NBA legendary big men, making the spotlight burn even brighter with a critical third season coming.
The path to Mobley’s growth has seemingly reared its head, something that was hinted at as early as Cavaliers President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman’s summer media availability in the midst of free agency. Altman said they plan to put Mobley in a facilitator role this season, relying on his unique passing ability and inside presence to accelerate the Cavaliers’ success.
With the addition of Max Strus, Mobley and Strus have quickly become terrific collaborators together on the court. Strus praised Mobley in training camp and insisted that he study film of his former teammate Bam Adebayo, one of the best playmaking centers in the NBA. The connection between Mobley and Strus has been instant, and that should continue moving forward.
The biggest flaw that halted Mobley’s progression last season was Cleveland’s poor outside shooting. Their starting lineup of Garland, Mitchell, Isaac Okoro, Mobley and Allen gave the Cavaliers two perimeter threats while their frontcourt and Okoro were non-threats behind the arc. This allowed teams to crowd the paint and force the Cavs into contested shots at the end of the shot clock. In the preseason, the Cavaliers were without Jarrett Allen due to an ankle injury, giving Mobley a chance to play with the best floor spacing of his career.
If the preseason is any hint as to how Mobley will perform this season, his growth over the summer might be an even bigger plus for the Cavaliers this offseason than any roster changes. A fringe All-Star season or better from Mobley is like signing adding a new star to the team in itself.
Finally, the Cavaliers saw a resurgence from one of their forwards who had a rocky finish last year.