In lieu of being excited about what the future holds after strong showings from key young players like Isaac Okoro or Evan Mobley, there’s overwhelming angst. There’s also a lit bit of FOMO with Jalen Green lighting up everyone on the court, Cleveland included. But, he was never going to be a Cavalier. According to sources, the Rockets promised Green they’d select him barring the opportunity to trade up to no. 1 to take Cade Cunningham. If that were to happen then Green would’ve likely become a Detroit Piston instead.
Instead, fans are feeling uneasy because Golden State Warriors rookie Jonathan Kuminnga or Toronto Raptors rookie Scottie Barnes are putting up better numbers than Mobley. Again, this is during exhibition play, where people are feeling trepidations about Cleveland’s latest young addition, who has the potential to be one of the best players in this draft class. Sure, the counting stats do seem disappointing for a top-three selection. But, there needs to be some context for folks when they look at the box scores of the three games Mobley played. First off, Mobley didn’t have a true point guard on the roster to run the offense for him and the rest of the Cavaliers. Instead, head coach J.J. Outlaw experimented with Okoro running point or having players like Lamar Stevens bring the ball up to initiate the offense. Cleveland had Mobley bring the ball up at times as well and it bore some fruit for the summer Cavaliers.
But, despite some tinkering and trying to play positionless basketball, Mobley’s counting stats took a hit on offense. Also, again, these are meaningless games where you cannot take too much personal stock in how Mobley looked compared to players like Barnes or Kuminga. Yes, both of those non-Cleveland players were impressive for their respective teams. But, there once again needs to be context behind them all of them before fans or folks who pretend to act like they understand how to properly cover the team starts foaming at the mouth that Mobley was the wrong choice for the Cavaliers.
With Barnes, the Raptors were a lot more creative when they deployed him on the court. In his four games played for Toronto, he was used as more of a point-center more than a traditional power forward. That means there were numerous possessions where Barnes had the ball in his hand for Toronto, acting as the primary initiator on offense and at times it was reminiscent of how Golden State utilizes Draymond Green. Barnes looked sharp at times too and could give the Raptors help to fill the playmaking void left by Kyle Lowry as well.
But, there are plenty of growing pains for Barnes who shot 27.3% from three-point range on nearly three attempts per game. Mobley wasn’t the best shooter either for Cleveland (12.5% on 2.7 attempts per game) but it wasn’t a huge part of Mobley’s shot profile compared to Barnes’s. There’s also the situation where Barnes’s shot mechanics need to be completely rebuilt while Mobley’s needs slight alterations to make it more reliable. It also doesn’t help that Barnes is much smaller than Mobley and isn’t as nearly as multifaceted. Sure, Toronto used Barnes at the center a lot in Summer League play. But, he also will get eaten alive during the regular season if they try that again. Again, the same can be said for Mobley but the Cavaliers have the added luxury of Jarrett Allen to support him.
With Kuminga, meanwhile, there could not be a worse prospect to end up with Cleveland. Sure, Kuminga was a top player for Golden State in nearly every statistical category but his shooting numbers were putrid. Kuminga connected on 37.3% of his field goal attempts and hit 27.8% of his three-point attempts. More than anything, he showed that he can play with a ton of energy in limited minutes but is incredibly raw. That’s why a situation like the one he landed in with the Warriors is the most ideal for Kuminga’s long-term development. He can play in bursts behind either Andrew Wiggins or Draymond Green off the bench next season all while continuing to grow and develop into an NBA player.
It’ll probably be two years minimum before Kuminga makes a serious impact for any NBA team and that’s something the Cavaliers cannot afford. According to sources, after multiple years of serious losing after LeBron James left down for the second time, there’s now an expectation for Cleveland to start building momentum towards the playoffs or at least the play-in tournament. That’s why taking Mobley, a player who can contribute right away for the Cavaliers, makes even more sense over taking Kuminga. Cleveland cannot afford to be patient with their newest rookie right now and considering they will likely boast the youngest starting lineup in the league next year they shouldn’t take on one so raw like Kuminga either.
After their Summer League loss to Houston Outlaw said that Cleveland’s trip to Vegas would be more about the process than the results for the team. It means developing existing role players like Stevens or Mfiondu Kabengele further. It also means establishing on-court chemistry between Isaac Okoro and Evan Mobley. It also means unearthing players like Matt Ryan or Jaylen Hands as possible options for a two-way contract.
Moving forward, Mobley will be the centerpiece of Cleveland and the face of the franchise in time and will be supported by a few of the players mentioned above. But, it will take time for things to come to fruition. It requires patience more than anything but if you need to crystalize what to expect from Mobley, look at his game against the Orlando Magic during Summer League. You see a combination of defense, playmaking, athleticism, inside and outside scoring and all the little things that made him so enticing for the Cavaliers with the third overall selection. So, instead of obsessing over his counting stats in, one more time for the road, meaningless exhibition games, get excited over the already existing foundation Cleveland gets to work with Mobley going forward.