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How Evan Mobley is subtly making the leap in year two

Evan Mobley has made gradual improvements as a sophomore.

Philadelphia 76ers v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Evan Mobley entered his sophomore season with lofty expectations and while his averages are similar to his rookie numbers, Mobley’s gradual improvement with the Cleveland Cavaliers has been undeniable.

His impact on the game has broadened, scoring more efficiently and rebounding at a higher rate. Mobley is showcasing significant development on both ends of the floor even if his raw per-game statistics are not jumping off the page in comparison to last season.

Promising offensive improvements

The offensive side of the ball is where Mobely has always had the most to prove. He’s done so in many ways this season, overcoming his limitations by becoming a beast in the paint.

Mobley is finishing 72.3% of his touches in the paint, a jump from 66% last season. He’s also been significantly better as a roll-man, generating 1.27 points per possession in pick-and-roll compared to just 0.93 last season. His mobility for a seven-footer is mind-blowing, tricking even someone like Joel Embiid with a lanky euro step.

Flashes of offensive dominance have been shown with Mobely averaging 16.8 points on 65.5% efficiency over his last four games. He’s even shooting 3-of-9 from deep during this stretch, including a dagger to halt Orlando’s fourth quarter comeback attempt.

Mobley has displayed increased patience with the ball. This has shown itself as indecisiveness at times but Mobley’s willingness to probe the defense before making his move is leading to high-quality field goals.

It hasn’t all been perfect. Mobley is shooting just 36.1% on pull-up jumpers and finishing only 35.9% of his post-ups. Continuing to expand his range and pack on muscle in order to fight in the post will be key to improving in these areas.

Despite his limits, Mobley is quickly making himself a force in the paint and a threat to score in bunches on any given night.

New challenges on defense

Mobley’s offensive potential is exciting but his defensive prowess is already superstar status with a ceiling that lines him up as a future Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

He’s everywhere on defense. A roaming seven-footer who has contested the most 3-pointers in the NBA this season while holding opponents six percent below their average in the paint is the type of stuff that makes Mobley a world-beater.

Mobley’s instincts allow him to mirror opponents and contest shots without fouling. He recorded a career-high 8 blocks against Detroit without committing a single foul, a feat that has only been done 15 times in NBA history.

He excels at tapping the ball to teammates, or himself, when blocking opponents. Mobley’s ability to snatch a shot out of the air, like this play against Terry Rozier, sets him apart from other rim protectors as Cleveland can swiftly turn his defense into offense.

Alongside Jarrett Allen, Mobley is free to patrol the court and serve as the ultimate help defender. Together, these two bigs give the Cavaliers one of the best defensive frontcourts in the NBA.

Separately? Allen and Mobley provide slightly different things. Allen is stronger and more of a sturdy physical presence in the paint whereas Mobley is at his best when he is closing space and moving his feet.

As a rookie, Mobley was pushed to his limit without Allen on the court to anchor the defense and haul in rebounds. This has changed, with Mobley sharply increasing his rebounding from 8.5 per game without Allen last season to 11.8 rebounds in this recent stretch.

His improvement isn’t exclusive to minutes without Allen. Mobley has become an all-around better rebounder, boxing out opponents and squeezing the ball with two hands in order to properly clean the glass for nine double-doubles this season (he had 21 as a rookie).

The Cavaliers have the best Defensive Rating in the league and have been even better with Mobley leading the charge, a testament to his growth as a leader. He can still benefit from adding muscle and bunkering down against post-players but Mobley is well on his way to being an All-Defensive player.