Last season, Cleveland Charge general manager Brendon Yu spoke with Right Down Euclid about how the organization’s ultimate goal is to best develop talent to support the Cleveland Cavaliers, the club’s NBA affiliate. Cleveland was 6-6 overall at the time and didn’t qualify for the newly-expanded NBA G League Showcase Cup Tournament. By the time the marquee event opened up in Las Vegas, the Charge had an overall record of 6-8 and later on, notched a 96-92 victory over Scott Henderson and G League Ignite during NBA All-Star Weekend.
By the time the regular season had ended for Cleveland, the Charge had an overall record of 6-26. Sure, two-way players like Tacko Fall and R.J. Nembhard showed potential. But, neither seemed to fit the bill of what the Charge hoped to develop for the Cavaliers long-term. So, by the time the 2022 NBA Draft rolled around, the Cavaliers and the Charge wiped the slate clean. The Cavaliers took Isaiah Mobley, the older brother of franchise cornerstone Evan Mobley, with the no. 49 pick and, eventually, signed him to a two-way deal.
The long-term expectation is for the elder Mobley to eventually support his brother and Jarrett Allen with the Cavaliers. But, Mobley needed time to grow and develop with the Charge this year to reach that vision. For those at home, Mobley has only appeared in 9 of a possible 64 games for the Cavaliers and has averaged 1.0 points and 1.2 rebounds in 2.9 minutes per game. Meanwhile, Mobley has appeared in 24 of 40 contests with the Charge and has averaged 23.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.3 blocks in roughly 32.3 minutes per game.
Curiously enough, as his younger brother did for the Cavaliers last year, Mobley has acted like a catalyst for the Charge this season. After their 102-101 victory at home over the Lakeland Magic on Saturday night, Cleveland has an overall record of 13-9 and currently have a top-four record in the G League’s Eastern Conference. Mobley was at the center of it all, finishing the game with 24 points, 5 rebounds, 4 blocks and 1 assist in roughly 36 minutes of action. But, in Yu’s eyes, what Mobley gives the Charge on a night-to-night basis is much more than just counting stats. It’s the little things that Mobley does on a night-to-night basis that has led to Cleveland having a turnaround season.
“It’s the mentality that he comes in with every single day,” said Yu to Right Down Euclid. “He comes down here to win and attack and he doesn’t necessarily care about us running plays for him, even though we do, since he’d rather do the little things to help us win any given night.
“One night Sharife could be cooking and he’ll encourage to keep running plays for him. Isaiah would rather set a screen for Sharife to get the bucket or work to grab an offensive rebound to give us an extra possession or just little things like that.”
Mind you, it’s not just Mobley doing everything for the Charge that’s led to such a successful season. Yu knocked on wood and jokingly told Right Down Euclid that a lot of it could be attributed to the team remaining relatively healthy nearly all season. Yu also gives a lot of credit to first-time head coach Mike Gerrity for having a deep pedigree in player development. It also can be chalked up to Cleveland having an influx of talent throughout their roster to support Mobley as well.
Of course, there’s fellow two-way player Mamadi Diakite. But, there’s also Sam Merrill, who the Charge selected with the first-overall pick in the NBA G League Draft. There’s also Sharife Cooper, who spent last season with the Atlanta Hawks, Jamorko Pickett, who played with the Cavaliers during the Las Vegas Summer League and in training camp and even Chandler Vaudrin, who rehabbed an injury with the team and is one of the leading playmakers for the Charge as well.
With so many players leading to on-court success, it’s a good problem to have from Yu’s perspective. The Charge can continue develop talent that supports the Cavaliers, their NBA affiliate. But, now that there are higher stakes to this season, Yu and his staff can consider how to best maximize the opportunity in front of them for everyone on the roster. Sure, the Cavaliers could convert the two-way contract of Mobley or Diakite and then add Merrill to the fold to add some much-needed three-point shooting. But, there are only so many roster spots to go around with the Cavaliers so, for other players on the Charge, playing winning, meaningful basketball allows them a chance to audition for other teams across the NBA, not just the Cavaliers. Again, in Yu’s eyes, that’s a great problem to have.
“One of our tenants is that a rising tide raises all ships,” said Yu Right Down Euclid. “Hopefully, the more you’re winning, the more likely you’re in the playoffs or playing for a championship. That means more eyes are on you and then there’s a better chance those guys have the chance to be seen by the right people at the right time and get called up to the NBA permanently.”
Of course, that’s the long-term vision and goal for anyone on or off the court for the Charge. With how well someone like Cooper is playing (Gerrtiy recently said that Cooper should be G League MVP), there’s a chance he could be called up and possibly stick with an NBA club sooner rather than later. If that were to happen, it means that recently-acquired guard Devontae Shuler would slot into Cooper’s spot and the machine would keep rolling on.
Mind you, that’s ultimately the goal for anyone on the Charge, Cooper included. But, when asked if he’d rather have that or win the NBA G League title, Cooper said to media that he wants to win it all with the group Yu and his staff have assembled. It’s an instance of iron sharpening iron and the team progressively getting better as the season rolls along. In many ways, it’s similar to how the Cavaliers function at the end of the day. There’s a large collection of star power all over the roster but, ultimately, everyone is committed to one goal: making each other better and winning a championship.
Evan Dammarell is a sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be found three to five times weekly on Locked On Cavs, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network.
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