HomeBasketball TodayCavs' Foundation Shaken: Injury Concerns for Mobley, Strus, Mitchell Expose Weaknesses

Cavs’ Foundation Shaken: Injury Concerns for Mobley, Strus, Mitchell Expose Weaknesses

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The Cavs will be entering their matchup against the Timberwolves at less than 100 percent.

With nearly 20 games to go until the start of the 2024 NBA Playoffs, the Cleveland Cavaliers are battered, bruised and trying their best to hold onto a top-four record in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, the Cavs will be without several key players against the Minnesota Timberwolves at home, making the challenge even more difficult.

Cleveland will be without Max Strus (knee), Evan Mobley (ankle), Donovan Mitchell (knee), Ty Jerome (ankle) and Tristan Thompson (suspension) against Minnesota. It’s been nearly two months since Jerome had surgery on a nagging ankle injury that’s kept him sidelined since the Cavs’ home-opening loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in November. Still, there are no clear signs of when he’ll return to the floor.

Thompson, meanwhile, is serving game 21 of a 25-game suspension and will be available when Cleveland hits the road to face the New Orleans Pelicans.

But even if the Cavs had Jerome and Thompson, it pales in comparison to them taking the floor without Strus, Mobley and Mitchell available.

Cavs shorthanded against Timberwolves

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Evan Mobley (4) is helped off the court by guard Donovan Mitchell (45) and center Jarrett Allen (31) during the second quarter at Target Center.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

This season, Cleveland has begun to embrace a three-point heavy attack after their bigs force opposing defenses to overcorrect, crowding the paint and leaving the perimeter wide open. Sure, lacking sharpshooters like Strus and Mitchell makes this even harder for the Cavs to execute. But it’s actually Mobley’s absence that is really preventing Cleveland from reaching their full offensive potential.

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While Jarrett Allen has fulfilled the task of wreaking havoc down low without Mobley this season with averages of 16.4 points and 12.1 rebounds, not having the center still limits the effectiveness of this offensive approach. Mobley isn’t a traditional big like Allen and only scores when attacking close to the rim.

Instead, Mobley acts as a mercurial offensive hub by attacking the paint, stretching out to the perimeter, passing the ball at the elbow or in the pick-and-roll and giving the Cavs a quarterback that’s central to a lot of their off-ball actions.

Meanwhile, on defense, obviously, Cleveland isn’t as potent when they’re missing Mobley, who was a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year last season. But, without Strus and Mitchell available, things muddies up even more for the Cavs, who are already sorely missing Mobley’s prowess.

Sure, neither player is a defensive stalwart like Mobley is but both players have longer wingspans and natural athleticism that can help slow down opposing perimeter threats from creating pressure on Cleveland’s bigs.

Speaking of those bigs, when they’re boxing out after an opponent attempts to score, it allows Strus or Mitchell to crash the glass and get the Cavs out on the fast break, leading to an easy bucket or an attempt conducive to their offensive approach.

Without the trio, Cleveland will lean more on Allen, Darius Garland Isaac Okoro, Sam Merrill, Georges Niang, Dean Wade and even Damian Jones to try and replicate and replace what the missing Cavs usually provide. Sure, every aforementioned player is capable of doing what Cleveland needs them to do in order to make their gameplan on either end of the court function.

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But, asking that group to do more than what they’re typically expected to do can be overtaxing and can spread an already thin Cavs team even thinner. Unfortunately, there’s no sympathy for the weary in the NBA and Cleveland will be no exception against a Minnesota team that’s rolling with the best record in the Western Conference.

Evan Dammarell_headshot

About the Author

Evan Dammarell is an award-winning sports journalist covering all things Cleveland, including the Cavs, right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. He can also be found three to five times weekly on Locked On Cavs, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network.

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