Isaac Okoro was one of the best players in the Cavaliers preseason, showing a killer instinct on both ends of the court and knocking down the open 3-pointer that came his way.
Over the first three games, Okoro has been electrifying for Cleveland, punishing poor perimeter coverage with a 42.9 3-point percentage so far. Although he did not shoot from deep at all against the Indiana Pacers, Okoro is showing a confidence from beyond the arc the Cavaliers have desperately waited to see.
In addition to his offensive growth, Okoro has continued to be one of the best defenders on the Cavaliers. His unwavering competitive nature forces his teammates to play with heart. Whether Okoro is making a play on offense or coming back into the game after taking an elbow and foot to the face (and subsequently being called for a foul?), the Cavaliers have felt Okoro’s impact every minute he spends on the court.
Finally, a slow start has not deterred this final Cavalier from growing into a bigger role.
It is no secret that the Cavaliers expect Evan Mobley to grow into a franchise cornerstone. This summer, President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman said that Mobley will have a larger offensive role this season, and he showed those glimpses in preseason. In games one and two, Mobley was not as pivotal for the Cavaliers as he was this summer, and his lack of confidence hurt Cleveland’s versatility heavily.
Entering game three, it seemed to be the perfect storm for Evan Mobley to enter his own with Mitchell, Garland and Allen all out with injuries. Only Mobley and Strus remained of the Cavaliers’ projected starting lineup.
Against the Pacers, the two-man game of Max Strus and Evan Mobley was the best part of the night for Cleveland. Despite the loss, this game might be the best one of the season so far. Mobley’s 33 points capped off a strong effort to show assertiveness in his game that he has not had often. He and Strus developed an instant connection together, running crafty dribble-handoffs followed by a pick-and-roll to set Strus up for a myriad of options either to score or pass it off to Mobley for an easy post play.
The duo of Mobley and Strus is the biggest factor in showcasing the dynamic offense J.B. Bickerstaff wants to implement this season. This summer, Strus pushed Mobley to study Strus’ former running mate Bam Adebayo, suggesting the same synergy they had in Miami could immediately transfer to Cleveland. The two-man game of Strus and Mobley might be the first example of this synergy and the value it can bring to the Cavaliers as they attempt to bring a better pace and versatility.
The Cleveland Cavaliers will face off against the New York Knicks on Oct. 31 at home. This game might be the best chance for the Cavs to showcase the growth they made this summer, playing against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs. If everybody is healthy, the Cavaliers should be the favorites entering this matchup, especially if Mobley continues his dominance.