For a team as young and full of depth as the Cleveland Cavaliers, it can be difficult to win right away while developing for the future. Sure, there are rare moments when players like two-way rookie guard Craig Porter Jr. can take advantage of injuries and minutes available to land consistent minutes in the rotation. But there are still only so many opportunities on the floor to go around in a 48-minute regular season game.
It can drive head coach J.B. Bickerstaff batty, especially when youngsters like Isaiah Mobley and Emoni Bates are not getting minutes and are more than talented and ready for the moment.
“It's difficult because I'd love for them to get more minutes with us,” Bickerstaff recently expressed to ClutchPoints. “It's just difficult with how it works and the rostered guys you carry. But Isaiah has shown time and time again that he's got a skillset, an NBA skillset. Emoni is playing at this level for the first time, but you still see his ability to score the basketball and how easily the game comes to him offensively.
“It's great that we have the Charge here in Cleveland so there is that back and forth. They played on Monday but were at the game with us yesterday, and now they're playing on Wednesday. It's great that they can have those experiences and we can have the same experiences with them.”
To Bickerstaff's point, having the Cleveland Charge, the team's NBA G League affiliate, is a godsend to keep both Mobley and Bates in the fold. The Charge played in Canton a few years ago, nearly an hour south of Cleveland. Logistically, it made it hard to have that connectivity that the Cavs and the Charge have now. There was a degree of separation between the two-way players fluctuating between either roster.
Now, the Charge use the same facilities as the Cavs to practice and even get opportunities to practice with players and the main club. It's done wonders for the development of their two-way players. This, in turn, makes the case that Mobley and Bates deserve more playing time like Porter Jr., their fellow two-way counterpart.
Why Mobley, Bates deserve more playing time
In six appearances for the Charge, Mobley has averaged 21.2 points on 46.0% shooting, 10.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.2 steals in 35.1 minutes per game. With the Cavs dealing with some depth concerns at the big man position after the Damian Jones trade was bust and 32-year-old veteran Tristan Thompson getting minutes out there, it could be a prime opportunity to let Mobley get some burn with the main club.
While he isn't a carbon copy of his younger brother Evan Mobley, Isaiah Mobley has showcased for almost two years the ability and talent to be the ideal reserve big man for the Cavs. The elder Mobley's ability to score, stretch the floor, pass, rebound and defend check every box for what Cleveland needs. More importantly, he has the luxury of having natural on-court chemistry with his younger brother, which could create some fun wrinkles on either end of the floor for the Cavs.
Meanwhile, for Bates, sticking with the Charge for as long as possible is the right path for his overall development. But, with the injuries the Cavs are constantly dealing with, they could use a score-first forward like Bates some nights. In four appearances with the Charge, Bates has averaged 24.8 points on 47.1% shooting, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals in 34.8 minutes per game.
More impressively, Bates has connected on 45.9% of his 9.8 three-point attempts per game, currently one of the best percentages in the G League. Bates has been a stone-cold killer with the Charge and shows no signs of slowing down, making his path to the Cavs seem more certain.
That's despite the fact that Bates still looks lost at times on defense, which is a prerequisite to playing for Bickerstaff; it's hard to ignore his feel for the game and scoring acumen. Like Porter Jr., Bates or Mobley could take advantage of injury issues or thin depth to crack the rotation more permanently.
It doesn't need to be instant, but it wouldn't hurt Bickerstaff to give it maybe a shot sometime. If it works out, it'll only make Cleveland a better team. If it doesn't, the Charge are always still right next door to let them keep developing.