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The thought was that Timofey Mozgov would get his big payoff once he got back into shape following the big man’s knee surgery he underwent during the 2015 offseason. That at some point during 2015-16, he’d return to form, and Cleveland’s commitment to him would justify the eventual massive salary cap and luxury tax hit that it would take to re-sign him.
The Cavaliers never got that payoff. Timofey apparently has, however.
The Los Angeles Lakers will pay the 7-1 center, who will turn 30 in two weeks, $64 million over the next four seasons to anchor their interior. The deal was first reported by The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Mozgov played in 76 games (starting 48 times) for the Cavaliers in 2015-16, averaging 6.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and nearly a block in 17.4 minutes a contest, though he was removed from the starting lineup during the first week of April. The center, whom the Cavaliers sent first round picks to acquire from Denver midway through 2014-15, played just 76 minutes for the Cavs during the team’s postseason turn – a championship run that took over 1100 minutes.
Part of that had to do with the shifting nature of how the league works now, as traditional defensive-minded big men like Mozgov aren’t currently considered prerequisites to a championship run. Part of that also has to do with how well Timofey played in his first full year with the Cavaliers – coming off of that knee surgery his ability to finish around the basket suffered, as did his work on both the offensive and defensive glass.
On a team that basically thrives off of catching and finishing LeBron James’ Bob Gibson-paced overhand throws, and cleaning up the rare LeBron and Kyrie Irving misses, this just about left Mozgov in the cold. This is part of the reason he’ll head to Los Angeles.
The Lakers have had significant cap space over the last two offseasons, but with Kobe Bryant clouding the framework the team hadn’t been able to lure any significant free agents – unless you count the similarly-represented Carlos Boozer to act as much of a grab. With Bryant gone, the franchise entered the 2016 offseason with more cap space than anyone; which is why it makes sense that the team would be the first to not only officially sign an available player, but also be the first to be slammed for potentially overpaying said acquisition.
This is fair criticism. The team will be paying Mozgov until just before his 34th birthday to work at a position that many feel is hardly impactful, with a skill set that even more view as an anachronism.
He is a center that can walk and chew gum at the same time, though, and given significant minutes he can approach double-double standing. Is this worth an average of $16.2 million a year? Probably not, but with the increased salary cap paying a player that much to sop up minutes at a tough position to fill for around 15 percent of the salary cap in 2017-18 … this can be argued away.
The Lakers, a team that has drafted two 19-year olds in consecutive years, prior to hiring a 36-year old coach, are treating the offseason as a chance to make a dive back into relevance.
How Timofey Mozgov, the guy last season stumbling around the championship locker room with a burrito in tow, contributes to that remains to be seen.
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