As center Timofey Mozgov recently has gone from a prominent starting role to a reserve with the Cleveland Cavaliers, several NBA teams are starting to inquire about his availability via trade, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
While the Cavaliers have expressed no interest in moving Mozgov, the 7-foot-1 center’s loss of his starting job, the franchise’s NBA-high payroll and his looming free agency could ultimately persuade Cleveland to make a deal. The NBA trade deadline is Feb. 18.
Cleveland coach David Blatt replaced Mozgov in the starting lineup with Tristan Thompson on Dec. 28. Mozgov’s minutes and production have steadily declined since, and he is averaging 4.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in 11.3 minutes per game in January. Mozgov played four and a half minutes in the Cavs’ win over Washington on Monday. Mozgov’s move to the bench was strictly a basketball decision, a source told Yahoo.
Mozgov, 29, will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer and is expected to receive strong interest and a lucrative long-term deal. The Cavs’ plan is to attempt to re-sign him, but a return could be less attractive for Mozgov if his reduced role continues. Cleveland, however, does own his Bird Rights, and he is eligible for a five-year extension with the franchise. The Cavaliers have $103 million committed in salary next season. If the franchise were to sign Mozgov to a $10 million annual deal – and his value could be more on the market – it would likely cost the Cavaliers over $26 million in salary and luxury tax.
The Cavaliers acquired Mozgov for two protected 2015 first-round picks (via Oklahoma City and Memphis) from the Denver Nuggets a year ago. He averaged 10.6 points and 6.9 rebounds in 46 regular-season games for Cleveland last season. The sixth-year NBA veteran also played a strong role in the Cavaliers’ run to the NBA Finals, averaging 10.6 points and 7.3 rebounds in 20 playoff games.
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