The Cleveland Cavaliers have seen a lot of players suit up for a game this season. All but one of their 14 rostered players have found their way into a game (Ricky Rubio is still away from the team) and all three two-way players have at least seen a minute of game action.
That’s been the necessity given the waves of injuries this team has dealt with. Jarrett Allen, Darius Garland and Isaac Okoro have each missed five games this season, while backup guard Ty Jerome has missed nine; only Max Strus, Evan Mobley and Georges Niang have appeared in all 11 contests.
That has led to constantly shifting rotations as head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has tried to find the best combinations to keep the team competitive without a full complement of players. The results have been inconsistent, with the Cavs sputtering to a 5-6 record through 11 games.
As the Cavs continue to deal with injuries and try to get back to .500, which players on the roster should get more playing time? The real answer is simply “get the stars healthy” but digging deeper, which role players deserve a longer look?
The Cavaliers have struggled to find a backup center this season. Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley together lock down the position in many games, staggering their minutes so one or the other is always on the court, but some matchups are best attacked with a two-big look. Add on the games Allen has missed and the Cavs have had a real need at backup center.
Damian Jones was acquired this summer via trade to fill that role, and he hasn’t had the juice. He has played 36 minutes this season and scored only seven points, with seven rebounds, a block and three fouls. Tristan Thompson was out of the league entirely last season working for ESPN and has now been elevated above Jones as the backup center, but he is not a long-term option and doesn’t bring much beyond size and effort at this point in his career.
The Cavaliers should be giving a look to Isaiah Mobley in the few minutes they are deploying a third center into the game. The 24-year-old brother of Evan continues to dominate in the G League this year and was one of the best players in Summer League. Mobley is a good defender, but more so his passing and scoring skill would allow him to execute the Cavs’ offense more so than simply standing in the dunker’s spot. He can handle at the elbow, he can catch a pass on the roll and make a play with it, and he can finish around the rim with more than simply an uncontested dunk.
Mobley should get some run this season to see if he is the answer for next year and beyond, but he also may just be the best option for this year, too.