The Cleveland Cavaliers easily dispatched division rival Detroit Pistons on Saturday, a relatively low-stakes contest in a schedule jam-packed with showdowns against contenders.
The Pistons have as bright a future as any team in the league, headlined by young stars Jalen Duren, Cade Cunningham, and Jaden Ivey. But the Pistons’ future is just that: the future. At present, Detroit is lottery bound, with one of the NBA‘s best chances to land generational talent Victor Wembanyama.
After the Cavs thumped Detroit Saturday, Pistons skipper Dwane Casey praised Evan Mobley‘s performance.
“I love his (Mobley’s) temperament,” Casey said before Saturday night’s matchup with Cleveland, per Chris Fedor of cleveland.com. “You don’t know if he is 20 points ahead or 20 points behind. He is going to play the same way, which is an excellent trait for a young player. He doesn’t panic.”
Mobley finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds against Detroit.
Casey also explained how helpful it is for Mobley to play with an experienced veteran like Jarrett Allen.
“And it really helps him to have a guy next to him like Jarrett Allen, because he has seen it all, done it all. He has probably talked to him a lot and learned from him in practice… he is one of our top young guys in our league today,” Casey finished.
Casey Credits Bickerstaff for Cavs’ Identity
The Cavs are also aiming for their first non-LeBron James playoff appearance this century.
For several years, the Cavaliers languished in basketball mediocrity, whiffing on draft picks and trades in an effort to escape purgatory.
But things finally clicked for Cleveland this time around, with the trade for Donovan Mitchell and Allen looking like home runs. Mobley and Darius Garland are also excellent home-grown talents, picked up in the lottery.
Given Cleveland’s young and inexperienced team, head coach JB Bickerstaff has worked hard to develop a winning culture in Lake Erie and battle back the team’s long history of suffering.
“JB (Bickerstaff) has done a good job of forming the style of play that they have,” Casey said. “Creating an identity for this team, playing big. They have two big guys that fit. Mobley is very mobile and can get out on the floor and Allen is probably one of the best rim threats in our league. Then you put two dynamic guards with them, and that group fits together. They have done a heck of a job creating that identity, both offensively and defensively, but especially defensively.”
Mobley Failing to Deliver on Strong Cavs Rookie Season
While Mobley is undeniably one of the league’s most promising young talents, his sophomore season with the Cavaliers has been something of a disappointment.
Mobley was the runaway favorite for Rookie of the Year last season until a late injury and an excellent finish by fellow rookie Scottie Barnes saw the big man lose out on the honor.
While the former USC Trojan hasn’t taken a step back in year two, his numbers have remained largely stagnant. And Mobley continues to be a defensive menace, among the league leaders in defensive win shares for the second-straight season.
Back in January, former player-turned-broadcaster Kendrick Perkins called out Mobley for not taking a leap in his second season.
“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,” Perkins said on NBA Today.
Perkins warned that Mobley’s slow development could spoil what’s been an electric pairing between Garland and Mitchell.
“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?