What's next for Evan Mobley and the Cleveland Cavaliers this offseason?

After his best playoff run yet, what is next for Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley?
Boston Celtics v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Three
Boston Celtics v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Three / Jason Miller/GettyImages

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ 2023-24 campaign is over, and an important offseason is ahead. Of course, finding clarity on Donovan Mitchell’s situation is critical, although his recent message to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski should provide Wine and Gold supporters some optimism.

But another top priority is Evan Mobley’s continued development.

He performed well in the Playoffs and raised his production when his team was compromised with absences to Donovan Mitchell (calf), Jarrett Allen (rib) and Caris LeVert (knee). The most promising future sign is that he was in attack mode in the last four outings.

In 12 games, Mobley averaged 16 points on 55.5 percent shooting and 27.8 percent from deep, with 9.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.8 turnovers.

Furthermore, Mobley was excellent off-ball, scoring 4.3 points nightly on rim rolls, making 58.8 percent of ventures (top six in the Playoffs) and logging 1.41 points per possession on cuts.

Defensively, he frustrated Paolo Banchero in round one against the Orlando Magic, holding him to 11 of 50 baskets in over 27 minutes, per NBA matchup data. When matched up with the Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum in round two, he contained him to nine of 24 shots in more than six minutes.

Confidence is key for Evan Mobley's next evolution

Yet there were still glaring weaknesses, indicating he was not ready for elite status.

He was overpowered occasionally and lost his confidence offensively in spurts. In Game 6 versus the Magic, Mobley’s shot off a pick-and-roll set was rejected by Jonathan Isaac at the rim in the second quarter, and his next field goal attempt did not come until eight minutes left in the game. He went one of two at the line in the third quarter.

He needs to stay aggressive and get stronger because he doesn’t generate enough trips to the line for a quality big man. It would boost the Cavaliers on both sides if he started putting his matchup or help defenders in foul trouble regularly. On top of that, he should aim for at least 80 percent efficiency at the stripe.

Adding a dependable 3-point shot would offset stronger opponents bumping him around, too. Mobley has shown glimpses of extended range, but he has not built enough consistency to threaten teams every night.

Notably, Mobley’s offense popped as the lone big man in the rotation. With Jarrett Allen present, Mobley registered 14.3 points on 44.7 percent accuracy. Without Allen, he put up 16.9 points on 60.6 percent shooting as the Cavaliers also shot over four more triples per game.

But is the key to unlocking Mobley surrounding him with more 3-and-D players? Yes, but the answer isn’t trading Allen for reinforcements. The solution is moving Darius Garland for a player(s) who fits that mold.

DG had one game shooting well from the perimeter out of his last seven in the Playoffs. He was also a mismatch defensively at 6-foot-1, getting shot over or dribbled by.

Credible reports also state Garland’s representatives will seek a trade if Mitchell stays in Cleveland. While he is a talented young player and likable person, he isn’t as valuable as Allen, which will affect the returns, but the Cavaliers should be able to get something good for him.

To boot in support of keeping Allen, two legit big men offer protection on the glass and one works as an effective rim protector when the other is helping on the baseline or up top.

If a team isn’t going to shoot bullseyes from deep, having size in the Playoffs is paramount. For example, the Oklahoma City Thunder last shot well from long range in Game 1 against the Dallas Mavericks, and that was also the last time they won the rebounding battle in the series while losing by an average of 8.3 points. The Thunder are down two games to three in round two with a win-or-go-home Game 6 on Saturday.

The other Western Conference series is the Denver Nuggets versus the Minnesota Timberwolves (tied 3-3). Both squads are massive and in the top four of 16 Playoff teams in defensive rebounding percentage, but at least one of their bigs can hit the 3-pointer.

As Phil Jackson once wrote, rebounding is the most overlooked part of the game. Keep in mind, the Cavs were crushed on the boards by 44 through five games facing the Celtics, and with Mobley at center, and Marcus Morris getting effective, emergency minutes, the group was vulnerable against the Magic, too.

Mobley and Allen can work together because of their high-level defense, rebounding, and screening/playmaking. But their jobs would be much easier if the former had the 3-pointer in his arsenal.

Considering how Mobley balled out late and the tools and instincts he possesses, it would be regrettable if he isn’t full-time next year what he was to end the Playoffs. That guy last seen wearing number 4 can be an All-NBA player if the coaching staff does its job properly and he wants it badly enough.

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