There was not a whole lot to get excited about this past Summer League for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Isaiah Mobley. A second-round pick, Mobley finished those five games with more shot attempts than points as he averaged 8.8 points on .333/.125/.571 shooting splits with 8 rebounds.
Mobley reflected on his time last summer when asked what his main takeaway from the first half of his rookie season.
“Honestly, just kind of learning how to play the NBA game. I knew the struggles I was having in Summer League were strength and conditioning and stuff like that,” Mobley said. “But, it was more so I didn’t know how the [NBA] game works. I just knew there was lots of space. You stay spaced. And that was kind of it.”
“And so now, the Cavs and Charge have been a great place for me to learn how to play the NBA game. The actions. What you’re looking for in the actions. And I feel like that has really helped me a lot because I’ve always been a high IQ player and now I’m putting it to use.”
Mobley has picked up on how the professional game is played, at least at the G League level. Through 15 games, the rookie is averaging 22.9 points on 54.3% shooting from the floor while also contributing 9.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.3 blocks per game.
Most impressively, he’s improved his outside shot as he’s averaging 38.8% from three on 3.6 attempts per game. Mobley has hit one or more threes in all but four games he’s played while attempting four or more threes in over half of his outings. This has produced a true shooting percentage of 59% on the season.
“Honestly, I’m just trying to stay consistent,” said Mobley when asked about what he’s trying to improve upon most in his game. “I’m trying to be as efficient as I can with my numbers. I’m happy with them. I always strive for more. If I could get 45% from three that would be good, obviously 40% [which was his percentage at the time of the interview] is a good shooting percentage. Just keep going up with it. Free-throws have been a focus. I’m happy with where they’re at. I would say I’m content, but I’m still hungry to continue.”
Free-throw percentage has been an area of concern for Mobley even though his 77.1% from the line has been solid. Mobley had a chance to win their semi-final G League Showcase matchup against the Windy City Bulls at the line with two made free-throws. The game was being played to a target score. The rookie split the pair allowing Windy City an opportunity to hit a game-winning shot at the other end which they did.
That, like everything else this year, has been a learning experience. Having an opportunity to spend time with the Cavs and apply what he’s learning there in a lower-stakes environment has been helpful.
“For me it’s like I get a cheat code to the test. I get to watch all the stuff. It’s like a free study guide. Here [with the Charge] I get to come and use the study guide,” explained Mobley.
When asked what he’s learning most from those experience, he says it’s all in the details.
“I feel like I know the majority of the action,” Mobley says. “I guess I’m learning the terminology of all the actions. Now it’s little things it’s details. Like, on a hand off if they’re playing this kind of coverage what’s going to be open?
“Like when Kevin Love does the hand-off keep. I want to work that in. Today that was one of my first shots. It was a keep. I step-backed and rushed it [the three-pointer] a little bit, but just having the opportunity to shoot that in a real-live game setting is nice. It’s little things like that, that I’m really starting to takeaway now.”
Isaiah’s progression isn’t lost on his brother Evan. “He’s definitely exceeding my expectations,” the younger brother told our Evan Dammarell. “He’s going out there every night and doing his thing. He’s just going to keep getting better.”
It’s difficult to project what this all means for his impact on the Cavs next year and beyond. His ability to influence wins on both ends at the G League level is without question. The Charge are 13-2 in games he plays with an outstanding 101.4 defensive rating when he’s on the floor.
How his skills will translate over at the next level is an open question. Although he’s improved in every facet of his offensive game including his comfort running an offense, he still appears most comfortable playing with his back to the basket. Mobley can get away with this at the G League where the center play is poor for most teams, but at 6’ 8” this isn’t something he’ll likely be able to do in the association.
That said, his most likely future role is being a back-up big who’s able to come in, provide solid defense, move the ball on offense and space the floor. That is a role he’s shown the skillset to fulfill. It’s possible he could be that role with the Cavs next year.
One thing you won’t hear from Mobley though is him putting a limit on who or what he can become.
“I don’t even know what I’m fully attainable of potential wise. Like, why not just go shoot for the stars and see where I land,” he says.