Evan Mobley may not be an All-Star but he’s still on his way to superstardom

Sure, Evan Mobley won’t be an NBA All-Star this season. But, when looking at the big picture, he’s on a greater path to becoming a superstar.
mobley warriors dribble superstar
CLEVELAND, OH – JANUARY 20: Evan Mobley #4 of the Cleveland Cavaliers dribbles the ball during the game against the Golden State Warriors on January 20, 2023 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Many of us, this publication and those within and outside the Cleveland Cavaliers included, predicted a leap of some kind from Evan Mobley this year. Entering his second season, Mobley put together a sensational rookie campaign and made an argument for All-Defensive honors. Again, he did that as a rookie so expectations were certainly heightened for a team that already had heightened expectations across the board.

Naturally, the defense would get better but the real optimism came with Mobley and his offensive repertoire. Heading into the season Mobley talked about wanting to increase his playmaking responsibilities all while spacing the floor with a more refined three-point shot. Due to his improved two-way game, perhaps all-defensive honors are more within reach for Mobley. In the short term, maybe there’d be an All-Star appearance for Mobley on the horizon. But, with roughly 24 hours to go until the All-Star reserves are announced, it appears Mobley won’t be joining teammate Donovan Mitchell on the last day of festivities in Salt Lake City.

If you just look at Mobley’s statistical production, it feels a little underwhelming all things considered. Mobley’s numbers are nearly identical to his rookie statistics, with averages of 15.2 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 blocks in 34.1 minutes per game. If you just ended things at that you’d say that Mobley’s been a massive disappointment in his second season professionally. But, that’s just being lazy and not seeing the forest for the trees when it comes to Mobley. Sure, Mobley won’t be an NBA All-Star this season and to some, that’s probably disappointing. But, when looking at the big picture and seeing how Mobley impacts the game on a nightly basis, he’s on a path to becoming a superstar in no time at all.

“It’s funny because the bar was set so high for Evan because of the year he had as a rookie and the impact he had on winning,” said Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff. “I think people underestimate or don’t appreciate all the things that he’s accomplished this year.

“…Evan could one night have zero points and be the most impactful player on the floor. That’s the type of player he is.”

When it comes to impacting winning as Bickerstaff aluded to, it obviously starts on the defensive side of the ball. Defense is Mobley’s bread and butter at the end of the day and what he’s able to do as a multifaceted option at such a young age is staggering. His coaches, teammates and opponents all praise Mobley for his cerebral he is as a defender and when analyzing him on a nightly basis, the analytical nature of his game becomes clear.

On the interior, Mobley grades out as a superb defender – allowing only 40.4% of shots he’s defended to go in. When defending in isolation, meanwhile, Mobley has only allowed 25.8% of the 66 attempts against him to connect, which is the best overall in the NBA. Again, you don’t see a lot of big men doing this, especially a young one like Mobley. All season long he’s been given the challenge of being everything, everywhere all at once for the Cavaliers defensively and he’s more than shouldered the load and is a key reason why Cleveland is the top team overall in terms of defensive rating.

“I’ve never played with anybody as tall or as dependable as him,” said Isaac Okoro to Right Down Euclid recently. “He’s the deal.”

mobley pelicans offense
CLEVELAND, OH – JANUARY 16: Evan Mobley #4 of the Cleveland Cavaliers handles the ball during the game against the New Orleans Pelicans on January 16, 2023 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Lauren Bacho/NBAE via Getty Images)

Mind you, Mobley expanding his defensive repitoire was to be expected this season. It’s what made him so tantalizing coming out of Southern California and, clearly, is what’s making him a key component for the Cavaliers on defense now. But, defense is only part of the game and for the better part of this season, Mobley has struggled at times offensively. A lot of it does have to do with the fact that Mobley is unselfish to a fault at times and would rather pass the ball to an open teammate that would create a cleaner look.

Sure, there are plenty of times you’d wish Mobley would be selfish and just rip it. Unfortuantely for some fans and fortunately for the Cavaliers, he just isn’t wired that way. Mobley is hyper-focused on making the right play that results in a win at the end of the day. Like Bickerstaff said, even if he has zero points some nights he can still be the most impactful player on the floor. Mobley has been put in a somewhat unprecedented situation to start his NBA career where he was never expected to be the number one option on a bad team. He’s adapted to a situation where there is plenty of star power and ensured that his impact was always felt. It’s why Cleveland almost went from an Eastern Conference cellar dweller to a possible playoff team in just Mobley’s rookie season alone.

However, that doesn’t mean Mobley doesn’t have a killing edge to his offensive game either. Since the start of 2023, well, January really, Mobley has averaged 16.9 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 34.5 minutes per game. He hit his career-high in points in a recent win over the Milwaukee Bucks and has continuned to remain dominant on offense since then, averaging 20.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.8 blocks in 35.3 minutes per game. Bickerstaff shared with Right Down Euclid Mobley has picked up the nickname “Fourth Quarter Ev” because Mobley seems to always step up on both offense and defense when his team needs him the most.

Funnily enough, the recent signs of offensive growth aren’t because Mobley is suddenly feeling selfish. Rather it’s because it goes back to his core identity on the hardwood: impacting winning however he can. It does give proper context to why veteran big man Robin Lopez described defending Mobley’s game as a combination of fun and terror and as time goes on, he’s only going to get better. Sure, it’s worth reiterating that it’s disappointing Mobley likely won’t be joining Mitchell during the annual All-Star game in a few weeks. But, when looking at the bigger picture and how he’s continuing to grow, it’s clear Mobley is on a greater path towards becoming the superstar everyone expects him to be.

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 [email protected] 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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