When the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted Evan Mobley with the third overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, there were doubts on his fit with their current center Jarrett Allen, who they also signed to a $100 million contract in the offseason. Others were suggesting that they could trade one of them to add a piece that flourishes at the wings or combo forward role.
These below average expectations did not negatively affect the performance of the Cavaliers as they have exceeded expectations in the first quarter of the NBA season. They are currently sixth in the Eastern Conference with a record of 13-10. Things could still go haywire like in previous seasons, but that seems highly unlikely because of the terrific performance of the twin towers of Mobley and Allen.
Lack of shooting in their roster
Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff decided to start the aforementioned duo along with seven-footer Lauri Markkanen as it seemed like an unorthodox trio in this era. Allen is not known for his shooting prowess, thus there were immense criticism surrounding the fit of Mobley and Allen on the Cleveland front court. Moreover, Mobley is a reliable shooter from the mid-range or numerous conversions from behind the arc as well.
Coming out of his freshman season in USC, Mobley just shot 30% from rainbow country and 69.4% from the 15-foot line, but that has improved to 33.1% and 77.6% in the NBA, respectively. With Mobley as a threat outside the paint, Allen could still use his brute strength and high leaping abilities on the shaded lane. The Cavs’ spacing has been incredible this season, and it does not seem like they are playing three bigs together for many minutes.
Towering defensive unit
As coaches decide to downsize their lineup in the middle of a game, their objective is to switch majority of the handoffs and screens to lessen the chances of gaining space from their plays. With Cleveland’s twin towers, it seems insurmountable for Allen and Mobley to switch on the guards and wings that will not result to easy buckets. There are even instances wherein opponents would not want Mobley’s man to set the screens because they already know they would not be able to score if Mobley switches onto them.
Mobley and Allen have played a total of 18 games together, 13 of them resulting to triumphs. In 382 minutes together on the floor this season, the Cavs’ big man duo have outscored their opponents by 43 points. As a tandem, they force 3.4 steals and 2.4 blocks every game, wherein they cause their opponents to commit a plethora of turnovers and attempt forced shots. Additionally, the remarkable stat about Allen and Mobley is that their opponents are just shooting 40.7% and 30.7% from the field and behind the arc, respectively all throughout the season.
Cavs’ Long term building blocks
Through these spectacular stats, this year is just the beginning for the Cavs threatening to become a serious contender once again. Allen, Mobley, and Darius Garland are the pieces that complement each other, while they also have the capabilities to attract certain individuals that will fill holes in the wing position or long range marksmanship.
The Cavaliers are not in a rush to seriously contend for the playoffs already, but the essential aspect is their continuous player development and massive progress every season. Collin Sexton may also leave the team in the next offseason because he is a restricted free agent, while Isaac Okoro is still in the process of finding his niche in the NBA.
As the Cavaliers experienced early success also last season, Bickerstaff must guide the young core when they experience hurdles in the midst of this new season. Young teams have difficulty overcoming these obstacles, but the experience of Bickerstaff along with veterans Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love could mold the Cavaliers to a likely playoff appearance without LeBron James in their roster for the first time since 1998.