After being hidden on the Los Angeles Lakers’ bench, NBA champion Timofey Mozgov is ready to take names once more.Big man Timofey Mozgov signed a lucrative four-year, $64 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer of 2016.
No one saw the deal coming, but just after the clock struck midnight, the Lakers finalized it, starting a landslide of apparent overpayments that followed.
Mozgov, who was a key part of the Cleveland Cavaliers 2015 finals team, played less of a role on the 2016 squad that took revenge against the Golden State Warriors in a seven-game series. He wasn’t benched for his play, but rather for the matchups that the team could play without him.
The seven-footer is a good defender and low-post scorer, but couldn’t spread the floor or dominate the boards as much as other players on that Cavs roster could, leading to a diminished role.
Seeing that he wasn’t needed in Cleveland, he took the opportunity to cash out on his experience and play for a younger team in need of veteran leadership in the locker room.
But Mozgov wasn’t a centerpiece of the Lakers’ rebuilding efforts and the Russian big was misused before eventually being tossed aside by the Lakers as they tanked their way into the lottery for third straight year.
Mozgov started 52 of his 54 games played in purple and gold before fading into the background and gaining more ire from the team’s fans for taking up a huge amount of their cap space.
Earlier this summer, he was shipped off to Brooklyn, along with former second-overall pick D’Angelo Russell in exchange for Brook Lopez and the 27th pick in the 2017 draft, which would be used to select Kyle Kuzma from the University of Utah.
This deal was huge for both sides. The Lakers shed the forgotten Mozgov’s large contract in preparation for a potentially crazy 2018 free agency and the Nets got a top prospect that has yet to establish himself in the league.
The loss of Lopez stung fans and will sting on the court, as he was the leading scorer for the Nets nearly every year, but the gap could be lessened by a Mozgov resurgence.
The fan-dubbed ‘Mozgod’ will be the clear starter over the likes of rookie Jarrett Allen, fresh out of the University of Texas, and any other potential additions, such as Tyler Zeller. He has the experience and the attitude to help lead the wayward team into a brighter situation.
He averaged just 7.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and less than a block per game during his last season in LA while playing just over 20 minutes per contest. Those are his lowest numbers while averaging over 20 minutes per game in his career.
With a heightened role in Brooklyn, his production can be projected to reach the levels of his 2014-15 campaign in Cleveland—10 points, five rebounds and a block in around 25 minutes of action. This would be the logical uptick, but it isn’t crazy to think he could be even better.
Over the summer, he practiced with his new Nets teammates in Brooklyn before heading back to Russia for the FIBA EuroBasket competition.
Highlights include a monster slam thrown by the Russian big as he came down from the top of the key unchecked to jam a missed shot in over a Belgium defender who was caught unaware. This dunk made its rounds on Twitter and other social media, but that wasn’t the most impressive feat to be seen.
In a battle against Latvia, Mozgov faced off against his new crosstown rival, Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks. This is a matchup we will likely see four times over the next season.
Mozgov, who is criminally underrated when talking about seven footers with passing ability and high basketball IQs, dominated Porzingis in the early going, even allowing the younger big to muscle him around in exchange for getting him into foul trouble.
While KP fouled out of the game, Mozgov was left to cool in the post as Latvia pulled away in the end. However, Mozgov’s 16 points, six boards and blocked shot are signs that he could be ready to storm back into a starting center role in the NBA.
His best performance by far was against Turkey, where he dominated the paint against former NBA center Semih Erden. He had 20 points, nine rebound and multiple blocks, 12 of those points came from the free throw line, where he was sent 17 times in the 30 minutes he played.
The game remained close, largely in part thanks to Turkish standout, Cedi Osman, who will play for the Cavaliers next season, but thanks to Mozgov’s early dominance, Russia managed to squeak by.
We haven’t seen the former champion play amongst the best competition in the world yet, but his performance on the European stage should have Net’s fans hopeful for the coming season.