By the way, the Brooklyn Nets also added Timofey Mozgov in that D’Angelo Russell trade, at the cost of finally parting ways with Brook Lopez (wow, that sounds weird) and the No. 27 overall draft choice Thursday night.
Wipe your tears, ladies and gentlemen, it was for the best…
So what do we know about Timofey Mozgov, the big Russian whose name translates into “Timmy Brains.” No, really. It does.
He’s 31 years old, a native of Russia’s second city, St. Petersburg, and a former New York Knick, Denver Nugget, Cleveland Cavalier, and Los Angeles Laker, who the Nets will have pay $54 million over the next three seasons (unless they buy him out or stretch him or trade him). He’s the only current Net with a ring, being part of the 2015-16 Cavs. And he arrives as the Nets starting center and a bit, just a bit, of the “new NBA” starting center.
If you aren’t familiar with the “new NBA” turn, let’s take it back real quick…
Kenny Atkinson has, on multiple occasions, referred to the new NBA style as one centered around the notion of positionless basketball, up-tempo offense, and three-point shooting at well, all while executing on the defensive end.
Still, Mozgov is a new age center in a couple of regards. Not because he’s the 20-point scorer that Lopez is (he’s not.) Not because he can stretch the floor (nah, bruh.) Not even because he can dribble like a guard and finish like a forward (he can’t.)
So, you’re probably wondering, “what the hell does this have to do with Timofey Mozgov?” What Mozgov does do is act as a defensive anchor and cleans the glass among other things, and he doesn’t really need the ball in his hands.
Look at the centers who were in the NBA Finals this past season; Zaza Pachulia and Tristan Thompson. Around the NBA you had Greg Monroe, Clint Capela and Pau Gasol start for some of the better teams in the NBA.
Good players, but they’re not Karl-Anthony Towns, Demarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Kristaps Porzingis or Hassan Whiteside, all of whom got as far as the Nets did in the playoffs this season. Meaning the couch.
Having a great center is not a necessity to be a great team, and in recent NBA years, this couldn’t be more evident.
The NBA is so perimeter based, where it makes all the sense in the world to have your best scorers come from the backcourt, like the Warriors or Boston Celtics. It makes sense to load up on three-point threats like the Houston Rockets, or last season’s Cavs. By adding Mozgov, you’re completely shifting the offensive focus from Lopez, to the Russell and Jeremy Lin combination.
And all Mozgov has to do play to his strengths.
Pick and roll? Got you.
Outlet? Here you go.
Those are all things that he’s demonstrated he can do throughout his career. Hell, if the Cavs had him, like they were supposed to have Andrew Bogut, maybe the Cavs finish off game three and alter the series a tad bit, but anyway.
The scoring load now shifts to the perimeter, and this falls more in line with Atkinson’s philosophy and offense. Lin is good, Russell is dynamic.
There’s levels to this.
And Mozgov’s role is pretty straightforward.
In his seven-year career, Mozgov has put up 13.5 points, nearly 10 rebounds and about two blocks per 36 minutes (Lopez was at 21, eight and near two, respectively.)
As a Laker, Mozgov, who started 52-of-54 appearances, along with 260-of-423 over his career, he posted 13.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per 36. He logged 20.4 minutes per contest recording 7.4 points and about five rebounds per game.
In 122 games with the Cavs for his previous stint, he put up nearly eight points, 5.4 rebounds and 0.9 blocks, which translated to 14 points, 9.5 boards and 1.6 blocks per 36 over a period of time that included 93 starts. Would the Nets be happy with that? As Ryan Ruocco might say, “You bet.”
Mozgov isn’t going to change the world, but he’ll alter the Nets’ identity, which likely will no longer include many back-to-the basket trips, as great as Lopez has been there for so damn long. The Nets will have to adjust big time on offense. Russell will have to score more. Lin will have to shoot better. The Nets will need to find one other scorer somewhere.
Still, Mozgov does things that aren’t on the stat sheet, and where he really helped Cleveland in the 2014-15 playoff run was altering shots on opposing drives. The Big Presence.
A great example of what he can do is shown here against the Knicks late in his final season as a Cavalier: Changing shots, contesting shots, setting screens, rolling, hustling, not stat-sheet stuffing, not sexy, but effective:
He finished with five points, six rebounds and one block, but did what he was supposed to. This is what he does.
There are long term issues with Mozgov. He missed a lot of games to various injuries, missing 28 last season to tailbone, eye, mouth and head among others. He will be 33 at the end of his contract.
Are the Nets done? Absolutely not. Do they still need help on the interior? Absolute yes. Could they find a big in the Draft? Probably. Might he also be from eastern Europe? Might be.