The Cleveland Cavaliers completed one of the biggest trades in the offseason by acquiring star guard Donovan Mitchell. President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman built on their Cinderella run in 2022 and made it a point for them to be a formidable force in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs have clinched the fourth seed in the postseason, and one primary reason is due to the impeccable defensive prowess of sophomore Evan Mobley.
The Cavs rank No. 1 in defensive rating in the NBA, and Mobley is a massive part of that. When the pace slows down, and opponents will scout only one opponent in the playoffs, the defensive capabilities of players will be highlighted. Players can have off-shooting days, but there are no off-days on the defensive side. That is the case for Evan Mobley, who has a strong chance for the Defensive Player of the Year plum. If Mobley wins it this season, he will be the youngest to win it.
Incredible switchability, versatility
Mobley is the epitome of a modern-type big who is a menace on the defensive side of the floor. He is arguably the best help-side defender in the league, as he is one of the top guys on contested three-pointers per game. Furthermore, Mobley is fifth in the association when switching to pick-and-rolls and ninth when guarding isolations.
He is being compared to a younger Kevin Garnett because of his athleticism and lethal awareness. Mobley’s approach and instincts are very mature for a 21-year-old man, which will be integral to his development as an NBA player. In defensive win shares and defensive real plus-minus, Mobley has been outstanding as the runaway winner in those categories.
He is playing alongside another outstanding rim protector, Jarrett Allen, so it gives him the liberty to roam around and commit a few risky plays because Allen will protect him and vice versa. Many of the schemes in this generation have been hunting for the switch on pick-and-rolls and attacking the big continuously. Still, that strategy will not materialize against the Cavs, especially in the playoffs.
Covering up the weaknesses of his teammates
Entering their 2022-23 campaign, the massive question mark for Cleveland was their perimeter defense. Having Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland as the starting guards is a fantastic tandem on offense, but there will be some sacrifices on the defensive end. The apparent weakness that was expected has been eradicated because of the excellent defense by both Mobley and Allen.
There are instances when the quick guards blow by the paint, but they think twice about attempting a layup or floater because of the interior defense of the Cavs. The nimble rotations of Mobley on the strong or weak side are why Cleveland remains the best defensive squad in the NBA.
Comparing Mobley to his serious opposition in Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brook Lopez, Mobley’s responsibilities on the defensive are far more highlighted because they need him to flourish in the perimeter and the interior.
The availability and reliability of Mobley are crucial as he commits the least fouls among the three candidates, even if he has played more minutes than Jackson Jr. and Lopez. As of April 3, Mobley has committed 153 fouls, 42 less than Lopez and 58 less than Jackson Jr. Keep in mind Mobley has played almost 400 more minutes than both.
Evan Mobley’s teammates have been expressive as to how much he deserves this prestigious award, and they are not wrong.