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One key play from Cavaliers-Raptors explained: Evan Mobley, crashing the offensive glass

Evan Mobley as an offensive rebounder is a development worth watching.

Toronto Raptors v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

Evan Mobley is a work in progress on offense.

This isn’t to say Mobley doesn’t make an impact on offense. He’s a capable passer, particularly out of the short roll, or when he has the ball in the post and teams try and double him. He’s a good finisher at the rim — 71% for the year, good for the 66th percentile of bigs, per Cleaning The Glass. But he’s not yet polished and dominant like he often is on defense.

One area Mobley could improve on offense is as an offensive rebounder. Per Cleaning The Glass, he only offensive rebounds on 5.9% of Cavs possessions — putting him in the 24th percentile of bigs. By comparison, Jarrett Allen has an offensive rebounding percentage of 11.4%, putting Allen in the 78th percentile per Cleaning The Glass.

The numbers also suggest that it’s not just because Allen is on the floor with Mobley that he’s not pulling in offensive rebounds at a higher rate. Lineups with him and not Allen have the Cavs pulling down offensive rebounds at a lower rate than their overall average, per Cleaning The Glass.

This is why this play — and Mobley pulling down a career-high seven offensive rebounds in Sunday’s win over the Raptors — matters. In part because of Mobley’s work on the offensive glass, Cleveland 26 second-chance points.

This is part of the next step in Mobley’s offensive evolution. Just look at this play. It’s a lazy box out from Chris Boucher, so Mobley just works with with effort and length. He’s rewarded with an and-one opportunity.

“He was dominant and he was forceful,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said post game. “He was playing with a purpose that he knew he had to do everything in his power to help us win this game and I think he did that on both ends on the floor.”

The three-point shooting potential is fun to think about. (It also may be more important.) His passing potential also is fun to think about. But Mobley as an offensive rebounder, someone who generates second-chance points for himself and the Cavs as a whole, could make him scary in a different way.

“I feel like it just comes naturally — I just have pretty good hands and touch,” Mobley said.

Think of peak crashing the glass Mobley as a supercharged, long-as-hell Tristan Thompson. At his Cleveland peak, Thompson was an offensive rebounding machine, pulling down offensive rebounds at one of the highest rates in the league. Mobley sniffing that level — or even hitting Allen’s work rate — as a high-end finisher could be an easy offense option for the Cavs. And if he improves as a free throw shooter — he’s at 68.2% right now, per basketball reference — it becomes even more valuable.

Just imagine Mobley pairing his one-of-one frame with a consistently humming motor gobbling up offensive rebounds. More often than that, that can result in points for the Cavs. So while it’s not as flashy or highlight-reel worthy as three-point shooting or passing, it matters. In the short-term, if Allen now misses time due to his finger and thigh injuries, it might matter right now.

“We want him to dominant the paint in all facets,” Bickerstaff said, “whether that’s the the offensive rebounds, that’s running, that’s rim runs, that’s lobs. That’s attacking with the ball in his hands. We want him to dominate the paint on both ends of the floor.”

Editor’s note: We are going to be trying out a new thing after every Cavs game (assuming scheduling and such) where I write around 500 words on a play that impacted the game in a major way, showed a tactical development for the Cavs, etc. It could be a positive play or something that explains a loss. This will involve quotes, video, data — whatever is needed to tell the story. Hope you enjoyed installment one.