Cleveland Cavaliers big man is taking the next step to stardom in late season surge

Evan Mobley came back from injury better than before and is making the necessary strides for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Cleveland Cavaliers v Washington Wizards
Cleveland Cavaliers v Washington Wizards / Patrick Smith/GettyImages

When the Cleveland Cavaliers trade for Donovan Mitchell in 2022, they banked on in-house development to complement Mitchell's star power.

If the Cavaliers ever intend to reach their ultimate goal of the NBA Finals, they will need their gamble to pay off. Cleveland expended all of their draft assets to bring in Mitchell, making trading for another superstar highly unlikely. Darius Garland has been a decent secondary option thus far, regardless of a down year this season. For the team to continue their growth, contention will rely upon another major step forward for another one of Cleveland's young core.

As the regular season winds down, the Cavs are in desperate need of help. They have regressed, and Mitchell is still plagued with a lingering knee problem at the worst time. Garland's inconsistency is still plaguing the All-Star guard, too. If the Cavaliers hope to enter the playoffs with any momentum, they will need major production out of somebody else to keep them floating above water.

In their last 10 games, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a disappointing 4-6 record. Throughout March, the Cavs could not put together two consecutive wins at all. While they still barely hold onto the three seed in the Eastern Conference, continued injury struggles and poor gametime decisions have led to the recent slide in the final stretch.

After begin sidelined with a worrisome knee surgery and later ankle sprain, Cleveland's youngest blossoming star has emerged better than ever and ready to reinvent his image this postseason.

How Evan Mobley has embraced his star potential late in the season

Despite a slow start to his season and some injuries, third-year big man Evan Mobley is becoming that star amid a rough stretch for the Cavs.

Throughout the same time frame the Cavaliers have struggled, Evan Mobley has taken full advantage of every opportunity that comes his way. In his last 10 games, Mobley has averaged 18 points, 6.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists and one block per game. While Mobley's base stats do not jump out of the scoreboard, the way he has gotten his points illuminates the young star's persistence and desire to reach his fullest potential.

In the post and on cuts to the rim, Mobley has shown noticeably better confidence and strength. Mobley's slender frame has caused some embarrassing mistakes against tougher defenders earlier on, but he has returned to the lineup with a new mindset and intensity. He has absorbed contact without fear and is getting to the hoop with finesse and brute force. Admittedly, Mobley still has more ways to improve when finishing at the rim, but he is figuring it out quickly since his return.

Progression is not linear, especially for seven-footers. Adding muscle and weight is a much harder task for larger players, and they typically take more time to develop their full skillset than their backcourt counterparts. For Mobley, though, the effort and production is there.

Outside of his finishing, Mobley has added the long-anticipated three-point shot to his arsenal. In his first two-and-a-half seasons, Evan hardly took a chance from deep and never showed any real confidence in his release. His demeanor and willingness on the perimeter have completely changed, now. On offense, Mobley will often float around the arc rather than clogging the paint. Instead of always rolling toward the hoop after setting a screen, he has begun diversifying his sets by popping out to the perimeter.

When Mobley first began taking more threes, he would typically only take a wide open shot. After a few weeks, defenders began closing out on Mobley, especially in the corners. Mobley reverted back to a shot fake followed by a drive. In his most recent games, though, the former USC Trojan has kept his composure on a closeout and is knocking down contested jumpers.

Against the Philadelphia 76ers on March 29, Evan Mobley gave the Cavaliers a 2-point lead in the final seconds of the game with a clutch three-pointer from the right corner as Mo Bamba closed out on him. In Cleveland's first possession against the Phoenix Suns a few days later, Evan Mobley sank a three at the top of the arc over Kevin Durant. Though the Cavs went on to lose the game, Mobley had no hesitation in his game. He later backed down KD in the post, using his weight to force Durant out of his way to the cup.

Mobley is not only hitting his threes with a defender near him; he is shooting over fellow seven-footers with ease. His volume is still relatively low, only two attempts per night in his last 10 games. Even at a low volume, any level of perimeter impact that Mobley can offer will greatly increase Cleveland's chances to take advantage of poor defensive rotations in the playoffs.

There is no denying that Evan Mobley holds the keys to Cleveland's future success. For the Cavaliers, Mobley's development directly correlates to the franchise's growth on the main stage. The Cavs know what Allen, Mitchell and Garland can provide. Mobley has all the potential and skills to define the Cleveland Cavaliers for years to come, and he is starting to realize what he can accomplish. He is still an unfinished product, but his latest stretch bodes well for what he can do this postseason and next year.

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