How Did It Work Out? Cavaliers Trade For Timofey Mozgov


It’s the end of July and the slow period of the NBA year is upon us. Summer league is over, free agency is dying down, and the start of training camp is over two months away. With that in mind, King James Gospel will run a series of pieces taking a look back at the moves the Cleveland Cavaliers made in the last year to assemble the 2015 Eastern Conference Champions. First up, a look back at the trade for center Timofey Mozgov.

When the Cavaliers traded two-first round picks to the Denver Nuggets to acquire their new starting center, many fans and media members were confused. Two first-round picks seemed like an incredibly steep price for twenty-eight year old who had averaged just seven point and five rebounds for his career. The trade cleaned the Cavaliers out in terms of trade assets.

One thing fans should understand is that the Cavaliers looked at the trade for Mozgov as part of a larger deal that also included the trade for Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith. The reason they view it this way is because they knew that they would be flipping the first-round pick they received from the Oklahoma City Thunder to Denver for Mozgov. If looked at as one trade in which they never truly possessed the OKC pick as it was always going to Denver, the Cavaliers gave up Dion Waiters, Alex Kirk, Lou Amundson, and a protected first-round pick from the Memphis Grizzlies for Mozgov, Shumpert, and Smith. When viewed from this perspective, and considering poor play of Waiters last season, this is a terrific deal for the Cavaliers in which they acquired three rotation players for a first-round pick and salary filler.

What Worked

Sometimes role players are traded to teams and flourish in a way that makes it seems as if that is where that player was always meant to be. That has certainly seemed to be the case for Timofey Mozgov. Mozgov started forty-five out of the forty-six regular season games he played for the Cavaliers, averaging 10.6 ppg. while shooting 59% from the floor, which would both easily be career-highs over the course of a full season.

Mozgov is a good enough offensive player that opposing teams can’t just leave him alone, which helps decrease the amount of double teams the opposition can throw at LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving. While his rebounds dipped to just 6.9 per game after averaging 7.3 during the first half of the season with Denver, a lot of that has to do with playing alongside elite rebounders in Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, not to mention LeBron James. Even then, Mozgov still finished 20th in the NBA in offensive rebounding percentage.

Where Mozgov really made an impact for the Cavaliers was on the defensive end of the floor. Before they traded for Mozgov, the Cavaliers were one of the worst defenses in the league, and opposing teams easily scored at the rim against them. After the trade, the Cavaliers were a top-twelve defense, and Mozgov deserves a ton of credit for that as he allowed the opposition to shoot just 46% at the basket while averaging 2.5 blocks per 100 possessions. He fit perfectly next to Love, allowing the Cavaliers’ star power forward to play more to his own strengths.

What Didn’t

While Mozgov was a great fit for the Cavaliers, like all role players he is not perfect. While Mozgov and fellow big man Tristan Thompson are impressive on defense and dominate the boards while playing together, they also severely cramp the offense as neither man is much of a shooter. Mozgov also rarely played in the fourth quarters of close games because he doesn’t have the quickness to switch onto perimeter players and struggles against the smaller lineups that are becoming more prevalent in today’s NBA.

What’s Next

The Cavaliers picked up Mozgov’s option for next season, which at just under $5 million is a bargain for a player of his ability in today’s NBA. Mozgov will almost definitely start at center, and will likely continue to play around 25 minutes a night due being a part of the Cavaliers’ deep frontcourt that also includes Love, Thompson, and Anderson Varejao.

The Cavaliers will also begin to consider what they will pay to retain Mozgov after next season, when he will be an unrestricted free agent. The four-year $54 million deal that Robin Lopez got from the New York Knicks might be the type of contract Mozgov will be looking for given their similarities as players. While Lopez is younger and plays more minutes than Mozgov, the rising cap and the Cavaliers’ inability to sign any free agents besides their own to big money contracts will likely create the kind of market Mozgov and his agent will desire.

Final Grade A-

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Mozgov’s play with the Cavaliers last season was everything the team could have hoped for and more. He was an excellent fit both on the court and in the locker room, and is quickly becoming a popular player among the fans. The one thing that keeps this trade from being an A+ is the fact that trading for Mozgov was the move that left the Cavaliers without any real trade assets in their immediate future.

This isn’t to say that Mozgov hasn’t been worth it, he has. It’s simply the truth that the Cavaliers will have a difficult time improving their team due to the few trade assets they have left. That being said, if Timofey Mozgov is the starting center and a core rotation piece for the team that finally brings a title to Cleveland, then the A+ his final grade would become would be the understatement of the year.

What do you think about how Timofey Mozgov worked out for the Cavs?

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