Evan Mobley was the most impactful rookie in Cleveland Cavaliers history not named LeBron James. His ability to completely disrupt opposing offenses was nearly unheard of from someone his age. The offense wasn’t as polished, but certainly showed flashes of greatness.
Mobley will be a superstar. It’s just a question of how long it will take him to reach that point.
Height: 6’ 11”
Weight: 215 lb
2021-22 stats: 69 games played, 33.8 minutes, 15 points , 8.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists with .508/.250/.663 shooting splits
It’s difficult to picture what a better defensive version of Mobley even looks like considering how good he was his rookie season. Mobley finished the year contesting 12.3 shots per game which was third highest in the league. He did this while fouling on only 2.7% of defensive plays which was in the 93rd percentile in the league among bigs. All the while, he blocked 1.7 shots per game which — good for sixth in the league. It’s crazy to think that these incredible numbers came from a 20-year-old rookie.
Getting more comfortable guarding on the perimeter is the next logical step for Mobley. The top of the Eastern Conference is full of star studded power forward/wings like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum. Being a competitive playoff team will require being able to match up defensively with those players on a nightly basis or in a seven-game series.
Mobley’s inconsistent defensive rebounding is something he will need to improve on going into next season. He grabbed only 17% of opponent’s missed shots last season, putting him in the 44th percentile among bigs. It’s easy to point to playing alongside Jarrett Allen as a reason he didn’t grab many rebounds, but his rebounding numbers didn’t increase much in the time Allen was out. Finding a way to become a more consistent rebounder is a skill that Mobley still needs to develop more fully.
Mobley’s offense was solid but there’s more visible room for improvement on that end. It’s easy to talk about Mobley’s outside shooting as a cause for concern. Him becoming a 33% three point shooter or better on decent volume would certainly help. That said, I don’t believe that’s a realistic goal for this season. Having a more reliable in-between game is something that he needs to improve most if he’s going to take a leap as a scorer while sharing the paint with Jarrett Allen.
Mobley took 34.1% of his shots between four and 14 feet of the basket (another way to think of this is between the restricted area and the free-throw line extended). To put in perspective, Mobely was in the 90th percentile of bigs in shot volume. However, Mobley was only able to convert on 38% of those shots, putting him in the 35th percentile.
The outside shot is an issue, but it isn’t what held him back from being the efficient scorer his impressive shooting percentage at the rim would lead you to believe he could become. It was the volume and lack of conversion on shots below the free-throw line that really did his shooting percentage in. Mobley was an effective playmaker in the high post, but not an effective scorer. Cleaning up his shooting percentage in that area will unlock his game and the Cavs high-low offense with him and Allen.
Mobley wasn’t a finished product last year and most likely won’t be again this season. That, however, didn’t stop him from being one of the team’s most valuable players. Getting just marginally better at what he already does well could catapult him into the All-Star and All-Defensive team conversation. Taking another drastic leap forward like he did from Summer League into his rookie season last year could have this team talked about as a conference contender and Mobley in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation.
Garland, Mitchell and Allen should provide a floor that will make the Cavs competitive in a loaded Eastern Conference. Mobley’s development throughout the season will determine what their ceiling is. He has all the makings of a superstar who could elevate this team into being a contender. Whether or not he is able to reach his potential this season or in the years to come remains to be seen.