Cavaliers insider gives a positive injury update on star's return ahead of playoffs

Cleveland Cavaliers v Chicago Bulls
Cleveland Cavaliers v Chicago Bulls / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

With another lengthy absence from injury, young Cleveland Cavaliers star forward Evan Mobley is showing real progress toward a return ahead of the playoffs.

On March 6, Evan Mobley was announced to be out for at least a week with an ankle injury after he exited the Cavs' match with the Boston Celtics early in third quarter. With a season decimated by injuries, Cleveland was in no rush to get Mobley back on the court again. Donovan Mitchell, Max Strus and Dean Wade were all also gone from the rotation, making it necessary to focus on a full recovery rather than a speedy return.

Though Mitchell, Wade and Strus did not travel with the team to Minnesota, Cavs insider Chris Fedor reported that Mobley participated in a team practice with a practice jersey on and is nearing a return. The Cavaliers are at the start of a short two-game roadtrip. If Mobley is travelling with team and plans to return before Cleveland goes back home, his return would be against the Miami Heat on Sunday, March 24.

Per Fedor's exclusive Subtext, Mobley stuck around for an extra 30 minutes after the team's post shoot-around for one-on-one exercises. Fedor noted Mobley practiced spins, sharp cuts and pivots alongside other movement drills. With his return close, the Cavaliers will surely appreciate having a glimpse of health again.

How injuries have derailed Evan Mobley's season with Cleveland

Although Mobley's first two seasons were relatively free from concerning injuries, his third campaign has been rendered entirely mute since his knee surgery back in December. After Cleveland's game with the Timberwolves, Mobley will have played in only 38 of a possible 70 games. With only a dozen contests left in the regular season and more than half of their nightly rotation down, the Cavs do not have much time to put everything together for the postseason.

For Mobley specifically, he showed glimpses of major growth as a shooter, confident post scorer and playmaker before being sidelined again and again. This was his first season averaging a double-double, and his physicality had raised noticably inside the paint. Mobley found a role in Cleveland's new-look offense upon his return, stepping out to the perimeter and becoming a semi-reliable option to score from deep.

The only solace for the Cavaliers' injury woes is that they are far from the only team plagued with injuries this year. Numerous other contenders in the East, namely the Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks, have been ravaged with key contributors falling to injury. Overall, 11 Cavaliers have missed an accumulative 201 possible games this season, the eighth most in the NBA according to Spotrac.

From his first return on January 29 until Mobley suffered his ankle sprain, he averaged 15.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.4 blocks while shooting 36 percent from three-point range. These 17 games were mostly in the midst of a minutes-restriction to help Mobley ramp back up to game shape, too, making his production even more impressive. With his rookie contract extension becoming available this summer, losing his third season to injury has put a tragic question mark over what he could have done without these injuries.

Outside of some small injuries here and there, Mobley has never missed substantial time for the Cavaliers. This entire season has been increasingly frustrating with every string of injuries following another back-to-back the NBA has thrown at teams for no reason other than incompetency to make the single scheduling change to eliminate back-to-backs entirely every franchise and fanbase has pleaded to see every season.

Thankfully, the Cavaliers have endured the worst of their back-to-backs for the post-All-Star break final stretch. After three back-to-backs in two weeks, Cleveland has nineteenth toughest remaining schedule with an average opponent win rating of .483 through their last 12 games. Conversely, the teams battling closest with the Cavs in the second and the fourth seeds, the Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic, have the fifth and fourteenth hardest schedules remaining, respectively.

Cleveland has an opportunity to capitalize on a relatively easy schedule going forward and secure a top-three spot in the East ahead of a redemption run in the NBA playoffs.

As Mobley comes back, the Cavaliers will need to prioritize building chemistry fast and giving him plenty of chances to score and find his groove in the offense. Otherwise, the playoffs may end even more heartbreaking than last time.

5 doubts Cavaliers have proved wrong this season. 5 doubts Cavaliers have proved wrong this season. dark. Next