Something special is brewing in Cleveland.
The Cavaliers have been one of the NBA’s most pleasant surprises this season, looking the part of a legitimate playoff contender mere months after making the third overall selection in the 2021 NBA Draft that has become one of the biggest factors in Cleveland’s revival.
Coming into the 2021 NBA Draft, it was no secret that USC’s Evan Mobley was a can’t-miss prospect. A 7-footer skilled enough to do it all on both ends of the floor would be the perfect selection for a team in need of help at the center position.
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As 6-foot-11 center Jarrett Allen was set to enter free agency, the Cavs’ decision to choose Mobley seemingly signified the end of Allen’s run in Cleveland.
Only it didn’t.
Days after selecting Mobley with the No. 3 pick in the draft, reports surfaced that the Cavs and Allen had reached an agreement on a five-year deal worth $100 million. Adding to the confusion was the Cavs’ four-year $67 million commitment made to 7-footer Lauri Markkanen one month after the draft.
Sure, Mobley and Markkanen are far from traditional 7-footers, but in today’s game, that type of commitment to multiple frontcourt players was confounding at best, especially with Kevin Love still on the roster.
Looking back, Cleveland wouldn’t be where it is now if it weren’t for the decisions made by head coach J.B. Bickerstaff.
In sliding Love to the bench and Markkanen to the small forward position, Bickerstaff committed to starting Allen and Mobley side-by-side in the frontcourt, creating the quintessential twin tower duo for the modern-day game.
Allen checks all the boxes of what you would want in a typical big man, and he does it all at a high level. As a result of his athleticism and finishing ability, Allen is averaging a career-high 16.8 points per game while shooting over 70.0 percent from the field.
In addition to his carer-high average of 10.8 rebounds per game, Allen is also displaying his rim protecting ability with 1.4 blocks per contest. What more could you ask for?
To perfectly complement Allen’s traditional offering as a big, Mobley is anything but. As impressive as the rookie’s averages of 14.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.8 blocks per game are, they only begin to tell the story of the versatility that he already brings to the NBA game.
He’s got a face up game…
A smooth jumper…
And displays his cerebral read of the game with his passing…
This might be from the preseason, but how many 7-foot bigs can lead the break like this? Fittingly, it’s Allen that finishes things off.
Defensively, it was impossible to find just one block to use as an example of Mobley’s rim protection, so how about a stat? As of this writing, Mobley is third in the league in contested shots per game behind only Jakob Poeltl and three-time Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert (per NBA.com Stats).
Not bad for a 20-year-old rookie. Oh, in addition to the youthful Mobley, did I mention that Allen is just 23 and Markkanen just 24?
Good as Mobley is already, there is so much room for him to improve and blossom into an even better version of what he is already. With time, the chemistry between Mobley and Allen in the frontcourt will only get greater.
Factor in Cleveland’s young backcourt duo of Darius Garland and Collin Sexton, and you’ve got a team that is way ahead of schedule.
The decision to take Mobley third overall is looking better and better by the day and we could very well see him cap off his rookie season by displaying his skillset on the NBA postseason stage.
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