The Cleveland Cavaliers need to see Evan Mobley take the next step against the New York Knicks
The Cleveland Cavaliers and the New York Knicks are going to collide starting Saturday in a seven-game series that will see either the Cavs or Knicks end their playoff drought. The Cavs haven’t been to the playoffs since 2018 when LeBron James and Kevin Love got the team to the NBA Finals. Prior to that, the Cavs hadn’t been back since 1998 with Shawn Kemp leading the way.
The Knicks went to the NBA Finals in 1999, and since then, have only won one playoff series; against an aging Boston Celtics team. They missed the playoffs 16 times since 1999. The Cavs have missed the playoffs 15 times since 1999, but went to the Eastern Conference Finals six times, had five NBA Final appearances, and won the NBA Championship in 2016. Clearly, the Cavs have had much more success than the Knicks in the same time span.
So in order for the Cavs to continue to out-pace the Knicks in playoff success, young, budding star forward Evan Mobley will need to step up huge against the Knicks and help cement his legacy as one of the best young players in the world.
It’s asking a lot of Evan Mobley but he’s got to be the star of the series
Now, the good news for Evan Mobley is that he’s not going to have to carry the team offensively, but with a nearly 60% true shooting percentage, he may be able to. No, unless Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland really fall apart out there, Mobley can continue to play his offensive game the same. Lots of play on the elbow, put-back shots, finishing, some occasional spacing, and the occasional three-pointer.
No, what Mobley needs to do, in tandem with Jarrett Allen for sure, is dominate this game defensively. If Mobley can help keep Julius Randle’s impact to a minimum, and show the Knicks’ wing players why Mobley’s a defensive player of the year candidate in just year two, he’ll not only impact the series, he’ll be the reason the Cavs win.
The New York Knicks are the 19th-best (or 12th-worst) three-point shooting team in the league with regards to percentage made. They’re 8th in the league in most shots taken from behind the arc. Yet, they’re one of the best-rated teams on offense. So why is that?
They attack the basket. That’s where Allen will shine, but Mobley will shine as he follows guys from the perimeter to the pain and back. That adaptability is key for the Cavs’ success, especially since this team is more lucky than good. The Knicks are a good offensive team, that’s not in question but the Knicks do rely too much on shooting threes.
The Knicks have a true shooting percentage of just 57.5%. That’s good for the 20th in the league. The Cavs are 8th, at 59.0, for comparison’s sake.
The Knicks will either win or lose by their three-point shooting. If Mobley can force some bad shots, and get some less-than-quality guys like Barrett rattled, the Cavs will be able to get the win in the series on the back of Mobley’s clutch defense.