JB Bickerstaff Sends Message on Evan Mobley Before Cavaliers-Knicks Showdown

JB Bickerstaff Cleveland Cavaliers

Getty Evan Mobley talks with head coach J.B Bickerstaff of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Few players have been as vital to the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ exciting turnaround as Evan Mobley. In just his second season, Mobley will likely finish with the league’s most defensive win-shares and a top-five defensive rating.

Mobley currently has the fifth-best odds to take home the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award, trailing Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokoumpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat, and Jaren Jackson of the Memphis Grizzlies.

But with a defensive impact that strong, it’s fair to wonder why Mobley hasn’t perhaps garnered even more DPOY buzz.

Ahead of the Cavs’ matchup with the New York Knicks on Friday, JB Bickerstaff offered a comprehensive case for Mobley to take home the award.

“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.”

Given that Antetokoumpo and Lopez will likely fill in the two big spots on the NBA‘s First-Team All-Defense this year, Mobley may have to settle for second-team honors.

Evan Mobley Praised by Hawks Big Man

Though some might complain that Mobley’s offense hasn’t taken a leap in year two, his defense, vision, and versatility have presented themselves in abundance this season. In fact, Mobley featured prominently in a recent deep dive by Michael Pina of The Ringer.

“He’s a unicorn,” Hawks big man Onyeka Okongwu said in Pina’s story. “That’s the term they use for people like him and [Victor] Wembanyama.” Okongwu and Mobley go back, having competed together during one another’s high school days, another factor Pina noted.

Mobley’s case as a unicorn is one also echoed by his current teammate Ricky Rubio, who told Pina that he sees shades of Kevin Garnett and Chris Bosh in Mobley’s game.

It’s true that Mobley’s shooting — 21.2% from three — has declined in his second season. But around the rim, Mobley is as reliable as they come. Among players who attempt at least five shots per game less than five feet to the basket, Mobley is second to DeAndre Ayton in field goal percentage.

Evan Mobley Called Out for Sophomore Slump with Cavaliers

Ayton is a player Mobley has been compared to in the past.

“We’ve been waiting on Evan Mobley to take that leap like in the conversation with elite bigs. High expectations. I’m talking about a guy that’s 18, 20 and 10. At least flirting around with DeAndre Ayton-type numbers,” ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins said on NBA Today back in January.

But according to Perkins, Mobley hasn’t taken a big enough leap in year two. And as a result, he has the danger of spoiling a vintage Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland season.

“If he doesn’t take that next leap, and he doesn’t start to grow in areas that we expect him to grow in, then, to be honest, we’re going to be wasting time watching this dynamic backcourt of Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland,” Perkins said. “He is the key. What was he, the second or third pick in the draft? And one could argue that he should have been the first pick?”

The Cavaliers are back in action Friday against the New York Knicks.

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