The Cleveland Cavaliers have completed their first four Las Vegas Summer League games in less than a week. With an undefeated record, the Cavaliers won’t return to the floor until Sunday. They could play the Brooklyn Nets in the semifinals, a team they’ve already defeated in Sin City, or a different team depending on how tiebreakers determine things. If Cleveland defeats Brooklyn or whoever they draw, they will head to the championship game and face the winner from the other side of the bracket on Monday.
Summer League can always be a bit of a whirlwind, and the Cavaliers and second-time Summer League head coach Mike Gerrity are no exception. But, considering Gerrity is now 9-2 coaching Cleveland in Summer League action, he seems to have cracked the code. Sure, it helps that players like sophomore Isaiah Mobley, who is familiar with Gerrity after their time together with the Cleveland Charge, have been dominant every game. But it’s not just Mobley that’s stood out for the Cavaliers in Las Vegas – there are also a few other key notables. Today, we’ll break it down as things wind down for Cleveland in Sin City.
Isaiah Mobley is ready to join the Cavaliers
The on-court action seen on a game-by-game basis during Summer League is more or less glorified AAU hoops. Seeing a team like Utah dominate in Las Vegas won’t translate to the regular season since the Jazz aren’t expected to win a ton this upcoming season. Instead, you have to parse through individual actions and tendencies to paint a picture of a player’s NBA readiness. But, when there are counting stats like the ones Isaiah Mobley has produced, things go from a concept to a paint-by-numbers kit.
In four games played Mobley is averaging 14.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.3 blocks in 25.3 minutes per game. Mobley has been a key reason behind Cleveland remaining undefeated and is arguably the team’s summertime Most Valuable Player. Similarly to his younger brother Evan Mobley, the elder Mobley has been a consistent threat and presence while on the floor, zeroed in on doing anything and everything to help the Cavaliers win.
Considering how Mobley looked in last year’s Las Vegas Summer League compared to now, it’s night and day in terms of difference and his impact on the floor. Leading up to the team’s trip to Vegas, Mobley shared with Right Down Euclid that he wanted to use his second trip to Sin City to showcase the growth in his game after the work he put in with the Charge under Gerrity.
“It’s another year of learning and another year of growth,” said Mobley. “My body, how I think the game, how I see the game, my outside shooting, my touch. I am really excited to use the Summer League to see how much I have grown.”
Mobley’s growth as a player has stood out on a game-by-game basis for the Cavaliers in Las Vegas. While he’s signed another two-way contract with Cleveland, what Mobley has showcased development-wise may be enough to join the Cavaliers permanently. Mobley is showing signs of being a floor-spacing, jack-of-all-trades big man that could become a glue guy off the bench for Cleveland – every team could use one of those, the Cavaliers included.
Considering Cleveland has two open roster spots and could use another big man, Mobley makes sense to fill that void. He could keep developing these skills in the G League with the Charge. But, it might be better for Mobley’s development to start staying with the main club permanently. It’s clear he’s more than just a good-favor selection to his younger brother and the elder Mobley is showing legitimate chops as a possible high-end roleplayer for Cleveland.
Craig Porter Jr. could follow Mobley soon after
Over the last few years, the Cavaliers have made smart signings moments after the NBA Draft, giving them a runway to develop. Recent examples include Dean Wade, who has developed into a floor-spacing, multifaceted big man, and Lamar Stevens, who became a multi-positional defender and a cultural leader for Cleveland. Sure, Stevens was moved to the San Antonio Spurs for the Cavaliers to make room for Max Strus. But the hardest sacrifices require the strongest wills and Cleveland doesn’t discredit the organization’s nose for signing undrafted free agents and developing them into high-end roleplayers.
Former Wichita State guard Craig Porter Jr. could be the latest instance of the Cavaliers’ ability to find undrafted talent. Despite a strong collegiate career, Porter Jr. went undrafted due to concerns about his perimeter shot and being an older NBA Draft prospect. Porter did showcase a knack for winning plays on the court, especially on defense, where he showcased a willingness to defend multiple positions on the floor. At his core, Porter is just a pure, bonafide basketball player that will do whatever it takes to win.
In his four-game stint with Cleveland after signing a two-way contract soon after the conclusion of the 2023 NBA Draft, Porter Jr. is showcasing the same edge he carried in college and, more importantly, it’s resulting in winning once again. Sure, the outside shot still isn’t translating for Porter and he’s made only one three-pointer on seven attempts. Still, Porter Jr. has been grinding on a game-by-game basis for the Cavaliers, making big-time plays whenever Cleveland needs him to, like a crucial offense rebound leading to the Mobley three-pointer linked above.
Something is endearing about Porter Jr.’s game and how it translates to winning for whatever team he plays for. Sure, his counting stats are equally as impressive with Porter Jr. putting up 13.0 points, 4.3 assists and 7.0 rebounds in roughly 20.5 minutes per game. But, his overall disposition, along with his style of play, on the court makes one thing clear: the Cavaliers found another undrafted diamond in the rough.
Now, this isn’t to say that Porter Jr. needs to join the main club alongside Mobley right away – he still needs to grow and develop as a player in the G League. But there is a path to Porter Jr. becoming Cleveland’s lead bench guard behind Darius Garland as early as the start of the 2024-25 NBA season. He shared similar sentiments with Right Down Euclid when giving insight into what the organization’s front office and coaching staff told him during the pre-draft process. Porter also admitted it may take him a bit to adjust to reach that point, but based on how strong his rookie debut has been, it could be sooner rather than later.
Emoni Bates has shown signs but needs time to flourish
One of the best things that Cavaliers’ President of Basketball Operations did for Emoni Bates recently is say that the organization doesn’t need him to be the next Kevin Durant. Instead, Cleveland needs Emoni Bates to be Emoni Bates and develop into the best-possible player he can be. Considering the weight of expectations Bates was carrying with him when entering the NBA, his new team’s top executive said that can pay off in spades. But, it will take time for Bates to reach his potential as a player, whatever that ultimately ends up being.
In four games of Summer League action, it’s sometimes been a rollercoaster for Bates. He scored 11 points on 41.7% shooting in his technical NBA debut and grabbed 8 rebounds. The following game, Bates hit double-digit scoring numbers again, but it took 18 attempts, with 13 coming from three-point range, to get there. It all seemingly came together in Game 3 against the Memphis Grizzlies with Bates scoring 21 points on hyper-efficient shooting numbers. But it fell a bit to the wayside again the following game with Bates scoring 15 points on 33.3% shooting.
Sure, the vision for Bates to become a lankier sweet-shooting forward has started to crystalize for the Cavaliers during their stint in Las Vegas. But as things advance, it’s going to become vital for Bates to find consistency as an off-ball shooter for Cleveland and it’ll be something that needs to be hammered home this upcoming season with the Charge. Mind you, that’s already on top of Bates needing to add weight better to defend his position and a few other glaring issues.
Again, with everything that comes to Bates and his development, it will take time for him to flourish. But, if Bates finds consistency with his shot at the NBA level, his path to becoming an NBA player becomes a bit shorter. Any team, especially the Cavaliers, could always use more shooting at the wing position. If Cleveland remains patient with his development, it could come to fruition sooner rather than later. Thankfully, the Cavaliers are doing everything right to allow Bates to flourish at the NBA level.
Evan Dammarell is an award-winning 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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