For the past few years, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been in rebuilding mode after the departure of hometown hero LeBron James back in 2018. The Cavs have built up a young core in the years since LeBron left, and, finally, this roster is starting to unleash its impressive potential.

Through 21 games played, Cleveland is currently sitting at the eighth spot of the Eastern Conference with an 11-10 record. Admittedly, the Cavs are still far from being a legitimate contender, but they have been able to keep up against the stronger teams in the league as of late. They have this record despite a number of health issues and a brutal schedule.

Cleveland is also doing this with an ambitious lineup experiment featuring a starting unit of three bigs: Jarrett Allen, rookie Evan Mobley, and newcomer Lauri Markkanen. This group has been surprisingly effective, especially on the defensive end of the court, and is helping lead the Cavs to success.

Why the Cavs’ 3-big lineup is working

3. Darius Garland and Ricky Rubio’s guard play has been effective

The season-ending injury to Collin Sexton has been a hit to the team’s offense, but Darius Garland is blossoming into a star and Ricky Rubio’s steady veteran presence has been important throughout the early portion of this season.

In this third season in the league, Garland continues to bump his numbers with averages of 18.6 points, 7.2 assists, and 1.2 steals in 19 games played. On the other hand, Rubio is a leader on the court as he plays an all-around game with averages of 14.2 points, 6.3 assists, and 4.0 rebounds in 21 appearances this season.

Their knack for scoring and ability to set up their teammates has been effective and has powered the entire team to be more competitive this season. Ultimately, both Darius Garland and Ricky Rubio’s solid guard play will continue to be a huge factor in determining the level of success that the team will achieve.

2. Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley, and Lauri Markkanen’s skill sets are perfect for one another

With the arrival of Evan Mobley as the No. 3 pick as well as the recent acquisitions of Jarrett Allen and Lauri Markkanen, the Cavs have put together a towering trio that isn’t a common sight in the league today. Based on the games they have played together, all three have shown that they are able to complement each other well on the floor.

Allen has been serving as a solid presence in the paint for the Cavs, while Markkanen’s shooting is coming around and Mobley can do a bit of everything. There’s obvious room for improvement on the offensive end for this group given the complementary skill sets, but it’s important to note how they’re using their size to be effective on the defensive end. This trio is allowing just 98.2 points per 100 possessions when playing together, per’s stats page.

The interesting dynamic of the three-big lineup has been working well so far, and their chemistry is expected to improve as they play more games together. Given their collective youth, there’s a massive amount of upside here with this group.

1. Evan Mobley’s versatility on both ends of the floor

Thanks to their losing season in 2020-21, the Cavs were able to nab a gem in big man Evan Mobley with that third overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Rightfully so, the USC product has been putting up solid performances in his rookie season, especially with his versatility on both ends of the court.

In 17 appearances, he is currently averaging 14.4 points on 49.0% shooting from the field to go with 8.0 rebounds. The 2.5 assists per game also show he has terrific passing vision that is rare for a player of his size. With his length, he is also protecting the rim and defending passing lanes with 1.8 blocks and 0.9 steals per game.

At the age of 20, the rookie still has room for improvement, but he has already been showcasing his talent as well as the high ceiling that he can achieve as his career progresses. He looks like an easy Rookie of the Year pick thus far. If the Cavs get to unlock Mobley’s full potential, they will definitely have a star on their side for the years to come.