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When the Cavaliers selected Evan Mobley with the No. 3 overall selection in the 2021 NBA Draft, he was seen as a “can’t miss prospect”. The 6’11, 215 lb big man from USC showed the skillset of a star in the NBA while in college. He could handle the ball like a guard, he could shoot the basketball from in and outside the paint (shot 58% from the field and 30% from the three-point line during the 2020-2021 season) and his agility with his 7’4 wingspan allowed him to play defense against any position on the floor.
Mobley showed a lot of his skill set during his rookie year for a rising Cavs team. In 69 games for the Wine and Golders during the 2021-2022 season, the runner-up for Rookie of the Year in the NBA averaged 15 points per game on 51% shooting. He also snatched eight rebounds per contest.
Going into the 2022-23 season, Mobley was expected to build on his impressive rookie campaign and grow into one of the top players in the NBA. He was drawing comparisons to Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. Unfortunately for the Cavs and their young talent, the potential has not bloomed yet halfway through his “sophomore” season in the Association.
Through 44 games played this season, Mobley has similar stats offensively (14.5 points and nine rebounds on 56% shooting and 19% from behind the arc). Defensively, he’s had his moments of key blocks in games and ranks 25th in defensive rating in the entire league with a 109.8 rating. Last year, he ranked 22nd with a 106.8 rating.
While similar stats equal consistency, they don’t show growth, and that’s been the disappointing part about Mobley this year. There’s been games where he has been in a lot of foul trouble, and his impact on the game has been neutralized. There’s been times where he’s out on the court, but if it wasn’t for his unique frame, you couldn’t tell it was No. 4 on the basketball court. However, there’s also been times where he’ll drop 26 points on nearly 67% shooting against the Clippers, and there will be a game where he grabs 18 rebounds against the Hornets. He flashes his potential; it’s just not at the level right now where it should be for a player as talented as Mobley.
Most notably, President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman might win Executive of the Year for the 2022-2023 season for making the big splash for Donovan Mitchell. “Spida” has arguably been better than expected since putting on a Cleveland jersey, and he is an MVP candidate this season. However, with the addition of the 6’1 shooting guard, that means there’s less opportunities to touch the orange ball.
With Mitchell and Darius Garland controlling Cleveland’s offense, Mobley’s touches were expected to decline somewhat, but he doesn’t feel involved in the offense as much. He’s shooting a shot less per game this season than he did his rookie year, and his usage rate has gone from 20.1% in 21-22 to 18.6% this year.
Mobley is also playing alongside Jarrett Allen, who is taking up a lot of room in the paint down low and averaging double-digit rebounds per game himself. Mobley has been notably more aggressive when Allen has missed time this season, including the Charlotte game.
The good news for Cavs fans is Mobley is only 21-years-old. He has time to grow into the star-studded player every fan and Wine and Gold staff member believes he can be. For some players, it takes longer to develop. The hope is once Mobley develops his “NBA body” and improves his outside the arc shooting, he’s going to be an animal in the Association for years to come. His skillset right now is hard for most defenders to deal with. The other important piece for the Cavaliers to consider is with the talent around their near 7’0 power forward/center, there’s not a ton of pressure on the No. 3 overall pick to be a game-changing, franchise-altering talent right away.
However, with that said, if the Wine and Golders do want to win the Larry O’Brien trophy in 2023, Mobley is going to have to have a big say in that happening. Time is not ticking on No. 4 right now, but he certainly needs to step up his play in order for the Cavs to have a successful second half of the 2022-2023 season.