Cleveland Cavaliers need an offensive leap from young star in NBA Playoffs

Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers
Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers / David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

After they didn't exactly sprint through the tape at the finish line of the regular season, the Cleveland Cavaliers have to perform better in the playoffs than they had been lately. In post-All-Star play, the Cavaliers had the worst net rating among playoff teams at minus-3.6.

Cleveland was 12-17 in that span, and even with some injury issues playing into that, there's no excuses for the Cavaliers as they head to the league's "second season." It's now Go Time for the Cavaliers, and Cleveland undoubtedly has to respond much better than they did in last year's playoffs when they lost in just five games to the New York Knicks.

In the first round of this year's playoffs, the Cavs are set to face off against the Orlando Magic, with Cleveland again the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference bracket. This Magic squad is not one that's going to featuring a ton of battle-tested playoff vets, but they're a hungry and deep group led by Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner. Orlando was third in the NBA in defense this season, making for a dramatic matchup against Cleveland's defensive-minded squad.

The two clubs split their regular season series 2-2, and going into this matchup, many will point to those two in Banchero and Wagner to lead for Orlando. Cleveland needs Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland, to set the tone and maintain pace with the Magic's young forwards. That said, one of the storylines many should be watching is how Evan Mobley performs, and whether he can bounce back on offense from his substandard play on that end in his first playoff experience.

Evan Mobley needs to take the next step in the playoffs for the Cavaliers

Mobley did not have the most memorable first playoff run last year against the Knicks, at least offensively, and the Cavaliers themselves fell short of expectations. Despite his lack of experience, Mobley's 9.8 points per contest coult not cut it. He attempted only 48 shots and registered only eight free throw attempts.

To Mobley's credit, he was up to the task defensively, led both teams in total rebounds in that series and is almost always going to be great on defense. Against an up-and-coming Orlando team, though, the Cavaliers need Mobley to be sharper this go-around offensively than he was. Thankfully, there's reason to believe he will be.

It's been far from ideal circumstances this season for Mobley, particularly from an offensive developmental perspective. He's had two hampering injuries this season, one of which included knee surgery in mid-season, and more recently, he missed time because of an ankle sprain. Despite those ailments, and the team's inconsistencies post-All-Star, however, he's regained his rhythm, which has been one of the positives of late for Cleveland.

In his last 12 games since returning from that ankle injury, Mobley has had 16.0 points per contest, to go with averaging 3.7 assists. In that span, he converted on 58.4 percent of his field goal attempts, and he shot 76.1 percent from the free throw line.

Mobley's had his rolling and cutting looks in recent weeks, which are looks that should still be there from some penetration from the perimeter guys or occasional big-to-big feeds, but it's been encouraging to see create for his own, too. Mobley has had productive drives and has used physicality in the paint to get to in-rhythm looks, and has mixed in some catch-and-shoot three-point shots as well a bit more. He's sought out contact, gotten to his spots, and has appeared more decisive with the ball.

Going into this matchup against a stout defense in Orlando, it's still going to be imperative for Mobley to maintain a heightened level of aggression he's seemingly had lately.

For the Cavs to have success in Orlando and in the playoffs in general, they undoubtedly need their perimeter players to be on-point, and that goes without saying. Independent of that, though, Mobley has to be consistently involved on offense from a scoring perspective, but hopefully as a connecting passer/secondary playmaker to some degree as well. He's gotten continually better as a passer, as evidenced by him placing in the 84th percentile in assist rate this season among bigs, per Cleaning The Glass.

Needless to say, going into this year's playoffs, Mobley seems in line for an offensive rebound compared his first forgettable postseason last year.

He's been one of the bright spots lately for the Cavaliers, and in tandem with his defensive playmaking, he's one of the key guys to watch this go-round for the Wine and Gold as they look to silence their doubters. Hopefully that's something that plays out, beginning on Saturday afternoon in Game 1 of Cleveland's first round series versus the Magic.

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