Evan Mobley needs to be more involved on offense — and Cavaliers know it

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Evan Mobley is off to a slow start in his second season. He knows it. He admits it. But there’s little concern at this point.

“I’m just going to stay consistent with it,” Mobley said following shootaround Wednesday morning. “I know shots are going to start falling and I’m going to be in a better position to take those shots as well. I’ve just got to stick with it. It’s only three games in. We’ve still got a lot more to go.”

In three games, last season’s Rookie of the Year runner-up, who was tabbed by league executives as the NBA’s Breakout Player for this season, is averaging 13.3 points on 56% shooting from the field to go with 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists. He is getting about four fewer shots per game, has yet to have double-digit attempts and isn’t as active on the offensive end.

“We’ve gotta get him more involved,” Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff said. “There are some things that we’re still working through. He’s so skilled and so talented and we want him involved in our offense in a bunch of different ways. Evan’s the type of player that if defenses load to him, he’ll pass the ball 100 times in a row. If that makes us win, that’s what he’s gonna do. We have to do a better job diversifying his opportunities. We need to get him more (shots). That’s on us as coaches, that’s on his teammates as well. We have put him in more positions. It’s not the number of shots, it’s the quality of shots that he’s getting. That’s our focus.”

There are various circumstances tied to Mobley’s uneven first few games.

Although he said there are no lingering issues from a sprained ankle that kept him out of the first three preseason games, that missed time took away valuable reps and opportunities to build on-court chemistry with new teammate Donovan Mitchell and first-year starter Caris LeVert . Because of that, Mobley admits it’s been difficult finding where and when guys are going to get their shots.

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Still trying to find his rhythm, those natural early-season growing pains have also been exacerbated by All-Star point guard Darius Garland’s absence. Garland a left eye injury in last Wednesday’s season opener against the Toronto Raptors and hasn’t played since. Without Garland, Bickerstaff has been forced to shuffle his lineup and rotation. It’s also caused roles to change slightly, with Mitchell becoming the ball-dominant point guard.

“It’s been a different change on the court,” Mobley said. “Didn’t get any preseason games (with Mitchell). These are my first few games with him. But we’re winning, so it’s going pretty well.”

The Cavs are 2-1. After a hard-fought opening night loss in Toronto, they have won back-to-back games and are going for a third straight victory Wednesday night against the winless Orlando Magic, who feature No. 1 pick of Paolo Banchero.

In Cleveland’s most recent game Sunday night, Mobley noticed the Washington Wizards being more physical, bumping him and trying to push him off his desired spot. The Wizards also packed the paint and sent double-teams in his direction. Mobley saw that same strategy at different points in his rookie year, but if the Magic — or other teams coming up on the schedule — attempt to do the same, he will be better prepared.

“I feel like that’s just a mental thing. I’ve got to go through that and finish through the contact,” Mobley said. “We also have so many weapons on the floor as well, so it’s hard to give one person that attention. We’ve just got to work through that and notice when they do double and attack from where we can.”

Mobley and Bickerstaff are constantly communicating. It’s one of Bickerstaff’s strengths as a coach, with players raving about his transparency and receptiveness.

But over the last few days, those chats have increased. The two have been discussing strategical counters, trying to figure out the best way to get Mobley the ball in space. Putting each player in a position where they can be at their best is one of Bickerstaff’s primary goals, with the youngster pointing to the elbow and mid-post area — his sweet spot that allows him to either get teammates involved as a playmaker, attack defenders off the dribble with a blow-by maneuver or knock down a mid-range jumper.

It’s a work in progress. Everything is at this point of the season.

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