No matter what indicator, statistic, eye test, or crystal ball one uses to gauge a season’s success, the 2022-23 regular season has been one for the books for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The team unequivocally built on last year’s top-five defense, leading the NBA in defensive rating for much of this season. A mediocre but promising offense was electroshocked by Donovan Mitchell‘s arrival, leaving the Cavs as one of two teams with a top-ten defense and offense.
So why aren’t more Cavaliers mentioned in the races for individual awards? At the very least, shouldn’t the best defender (Evan Mobley) on the league’s best defense merit stronger consideration for Defensive Player of the Year honors than the paltry fifth-best odds he’s currently given?
“We’re the No. 1 defense,” Donovan Mitchell boasted when asked to put together Evan Mobley’s argument for Defensive Player of the Year, per cleveland.com. “Guards 1-5. Doesn’t get into foul trouble. Switching late in games. He is communicating. He’s blocking shots and running out in transition. He should be Defensive Player of the Year. I’ve played with a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, so I know what it looks like. Seeing it with him for sure.”
If recent history is any indication, Mobley should be as strong a candidate as any.
JB Bickerstaff Praises Evan Mobley’s Defense for Cavaliers
In year’s past, the DPOY race has been fairly simple: who is the best defender on the league’s best defense?
Over the last seven seasons, the DPOY award went to a player whose team did not have the league’s best defensive rating just twice. First in 2016-17 when Draymond Green won it with the Golden State Warriors and in 2020-21, when Gobert won it with the Jazz. In those seasons, the Warriors and Jazz had the No. 2 and No. 3 rated defenses, respectively.
Every other case dating back to the 2015-16 season, the league’s best defense sent its best defender to the honor. The only caveat might be last year’s DPOY winner Marcus Smart.
Smart was an excellent defender, but his teammate Robert Williams III likely would have had a stronger case had he played in enough games.
“He is one of the most impactful defensive players that’s not limited to a single thing,” Bickerstaff said, per the Cavaliers’ official YouTube channel. “He’s not just an elite one-on-one defender, he’s not just an elite pick and roll defender, he’s not just an elite rim protector, he has the versatility to guard positions one through five. And he’s been that on the team that’s been the number one defense for the majority of the year. Night by night his matchup changes, his responsibilities don’t change, though. And, again, when you look at the productivity, but again, where our team has stood, I think it’s difficult not to give the honor.”
This year, Mobley leads the league in defensive win-shares and is fourth in defensive rating.
Draymond Green Praises Evan Mobley’s Defense
Of course, it helps that Mobley has already earned love from a former winner.
“Evan Mobley is a stud. He is a star,” Green said. “Evan Mobley is one of them ones for certain.”
Back on March 8, Green also fired off a tweet predicting big things from Mobley next season.
“Mobley will be most improved an ALL-STAR next year,” Green tweeted.
It may not happen for Mobley this year, but if this production continues, he’ll have many DPOY honors to shelve in his trophy case by the end of his career.