Cleveland's young star holds the keys to success for the Cavaliers in the Playoffs

Cleveland Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley opened his second playoff berth with distinctly greater confidence and execution.
Orlando Magic v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game One
Orlando Magic v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game One / Jason Miller/GettyImages

In the 2023 NBA Playoffs, Cleveland Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley shrank as the New York Knicks steamrolled to a five-game series victory.

One year later, Mobley's approach to playoff basketball is entirely new. It is no secret the Cavaliers view the former USC Trojan as their franchise cornerstone. Before the season began, Cleveland's President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman insisted Mobley would have a larger role in the offense with more opportunities to create for himself and others. While Mobley suffered two major injuries this season that derailed his season, the final stretch and his return to the postseason are showing the dominant force he can be.

Despite worn out talking points that Mobley is a non-factor from outside the paint, his three-point shot suddenly came alive when he returned from knee surgery. On 1.8 three-point attempts per game after All-Star Weekend, Mobley recorded a 34.3-percent conversion rate. While his percentage and volume still have room to grow, his confidence in his shot visibly grew over the last few weeks. In the span of one week, Mobley hit a deep shot with Kevin Durant's hand in his face and another with LeBron James closing out. He is not just sinking open jumpers; he is unafraid on a close out.

Against a physical interior team like the Orlando Magic, Evan Mobley's progression as a shooter and all-around confident offensive threat holds the keys for the Cavaliers to challenge any rival in the East. Mobley was the deciding factor in Cleveland's first win, and doubling down on Mobley's impact could win the series.

As Evan Mobley evolves, so do the Cavaliers

Now is the time to buy Evan Mobley's stock. The next step for Mobley's growth is not adding an entirely new skill to his arsenal, but it is receiving the necessary opportunities in the gameplan to flourish and showcase his work. With a 20.1-percent usage rate, Mobley is still less involved offensively than Darius Garland or Donovan Mitchell but slightly higher than Jarrett Allen (19.4).

Throughout his three seasons, Mobley has not made any jaw-dropping leap in raw scoring stats, but his efficiency and ability to create his own shot has risen significantly.

























Every year, Evan Mobley has steadily improved as an impact player for the Cavaliers with a nearly identical usage rate to his rookie campaign. While averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds every night would be thrilling to witness, Mobley's box score stats are watered down by the amount of talent that surrounds him. Where Mobley has grown is making the most of the opportunities he gets, efficiently scoring and creating a winning influence when he is on the court.

Thus far, Mobley has been compared to numerous legendary big men in the Association's history, but his most common comparison of late has been Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo. The pair's evolution over their first three years is nearly identical, and Mobley is adding two years of playoff experience to his resume. The more high-stakes experience Mobley can get, the better. Once he reaches his prime, having working knowledge of the playoff atmosphere will skyrocket his potential success.

The next step in Mobley's development comes from expanding his role in the midst of the game. Against the Orlando Magic in Game One, all of Mobley's 16 points came in the first half. After the break, Mobley only attempted two field goals in just over 17 minutes on the court. The Magic started to defend Mobley tighter after his scorching first half, but the Cavaliers did not make adjustments to get him back into rhythm. The second half overall for the Cavs showed a lack of adjustments at times, allowing for 18-straight missed three-pointers and a clunky approach.

Evan Mobley has shown all the tools necessary to unlock an offense while locking down on defense. His 16 points were accompanied by 11 rebounds and three blocks. Mobley can do it all, and Cleveland needs to lean on him for the rest of this series and the entire postseason. They made it work and took advantage of the Magic's lack of experience in Game One, and more of the same can win Game Two.

With the fourth seed in the East, the Cavaliers are on a collision course with the 64-18 Boston Celtics. They will need more than their standards to stand a chance, and Evan Mobley's rapid progression could be the hidden ingredient in the formula to overthrow the Eastern Green Colossus.

The best path forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers is using this playoff push as the launching pad for Mobley's stardom alongside Donovan Mitchell. Throughout the Cavs' winter stretch with an 18-2 record, Mitchell thrived with Jarrett Allen as his right-hand man. With Mobley's dynamic offense continually growing, the sky is the limit if Cleveland can give him the runway to fulfill his potential.

The Cleveland Cavaliers host the Orlando Magic for Game Two of the NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at 7:00 pm Eastern Time on Monday, April 22 in Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

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