3 Impossibly hard questions that the Cavaliers need to answer

Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers
Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers / Dylan Buell/GettyImages
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Hard Question No. 3: Is it time to break up Mobley and Allen?

The best version of the Cleveland Cavaliers' defense puts Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley on the court together. In 637 such possessions this season the Cavs have held opponents to just 105.6 points per 100 possessions, in the 98th percentile leaguewide (per Cleaning the Glass). Allen's rim protection and Mobley's wide-ranging impact shut down the paint.

The problem is that those lineups are also scoring just 109.3 points per 100 possessions (i.e. they have an offensive rating of 109.3), in the 16th percentile leaguewide. Even with Max Strus providing spacing in the starting lineup this season, the fact that neither Mobley nor Allen space the court at all strangles their offense.

Since Mobley and Darius Garland went down to injury, the Cavaliers have largely played lineups with a shooter at power forward, be that Dean Wade, Georges Niang or even Max Strus sliding down to the 4. In those four games the Cavs have scored 122.6 points per 100 possessions, top-5 in the NBA over that span. By contrast, for the entire season they have an offensive rating of just 113.8.

To get more data on whether Mobley and Allen can succeed together offensively, the Cavaliers have to wait until past the NBA Trade Deadline. To get more data on their playoff viability, they'll need to wait for the postseason and punt any decision to next offseason.

No other team is trying to do what the Cavaliers are attempting. The Minnesota Timberwolves are playing two centers, but one of them shoots 42.1 percent from 3-point range on solid volume. The Cavs are trying to creatively work around the fact that in a modern NBA that prioritizes shooting and lineup versatility, the Cavaliers are locked into playing significant minutes with two non-shooting centers.

Could the Cavaliers really trade Jarrett Allen in the midst of a Mobley injury absence? On the other hand, can they afford not to? Perhaps the team believes that the two can find their stride. Perhaps they are working a leverage game to get the best trade offer. Perhaps they're irrationally considering trading Evan Mobley instead.

This is a difficult question, and one that will have far-reaching effects, both for the Cavaliers and the league as a whole. Can the two-big lineup work? Is defense truly just as important than offense? The answers will go a long way towards dictating the path forward for Cleveland. Does that path include trading a franchise stalwart?

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